It’s not the prettiest slate of college basketball due to it being overshadowed by the NFL Conference Championships, but that doesn’t mean there are not a few gems for our Saturday viewing pleasure. One of them resides in the Big East as the Creighton Bluejays are finally living up to early preseason expectations as potential champions and will battle it out against the emerging Xavier Musketeers. Can Creighton continue their mid-season revitalization?
Xavier Vs. Creighton Odds
Oddsmakers think so as they opened the Bluejays as a -4 favorite as they look to get their revenge on their own home court against the Musketeers. Bettors are also in agreement with that sentiment, taking Creighton up to as high as -5 as of writing. This is tough to gauge as recency bias may play a role as early investors start to get their confidence back in the Bluejays after early season noise. Their recent level of play has brought them back into championship consideration per historic metrics within Kenpom.
As for the total, points are expected to be scored at a lightning-fast pace as oddsmakers opened the total at 158. Bettors believe that number is a tad too high, backing the under down to 157 as of writing. This movement brings intrigue as Xavier is one of the best offenses in the nation with lethal shooters all over. They also field a very weak defense, one that should give Creighton ample opportunities to stay within their scoring pace. They have lacked consistency, but the Xavier defense is that bad where another cold night may not be an issue for Creighton.
Xavier Vs. Creighton Prediction & Pick
The Pick: Wait on the over
With that said, I will continue to monitor the line movement as this steam makes little sense to me. While I like the over, I will wait to see how low this can go before tip-off before putting a wager on it. As previously mentioned, both teams are very efficient scoring units while Xavier’s defense has been reeling over the course of the season. Creighton has lacked offensive consistency, but that may not matter against this shotty defense.
Xavier plays the key role in this potential over as this offense is facing one of the better defensive units that they have faced against this season. This is their second time going against Creighton, winning 90-87 in their first meeting. This gives us an indication that they are capable of continuing their efficient shooting against a familiar foe, a lethal force that shoots over 40% from the perimeter and 50% from the field as a whole.
This impressive level of shooting has equated to an Adjusted Offensive Efficiency rating of fifth in the nation. Even more impressive is that they maintain this level of shooting off of a hectic style of pace, ranking 16th in Adjusted Tempo per Kenpom. They run and gun and find open shooters in the middle of transition. This takes advantage of a reeling defense as they try to clamp down, creating openings for Xavier to exploit.
This issue for the Musketeers, and a major factor towards our over, is that their defense has yet to play at an elite rate in comparison to their offensive capabilities. Their defense ranks a lowly 93rd in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency, keeping any opposing unit within a puncher’s chance even though their offense has generated consistent scoring.
Xavier Vs. Creighton Key Matchups
Can Creighton find offensive consistency and maintain scoring pace with the Musketeers?
Creighton starting five vs Xavier defense
When Creighton went through a rocky period that had us witness some questionable losses, it was on the back of their inconsistent offensive level of play. They have since brushed that off, playing back up to an elite level with a 22nd ranked AdjO.
Their starting five plays a massive role, accounting for over 70% of their scoring with each player being able to create his own opportunity. They will have an ample opportunity to find consistent scoring against the Musketeers, giving our over ticket a prime opportunity to cash at the window.
Xavier struggles at defending the interior, giving Creighton high quality looks at the rim. Should Creighton find perimeter success as a 35% perimeter shooting unit, then this will open up the court for more clean looks at the rim.
Pass on this for now and wait and see how low the total can go before taking a position on the over.