Game Notes & Preview: Providence (11-5, 1-2) vs (10) Creighton (14-1, 2-1) 1/7/17

Where: Dunkin’ Donuts Center – Providence, RI

When: 2:00pm EST

How: CBS Sports Network (Andrew Catalon & Steve Lappas with Tina Cervasio)/CBS Sports Network Streaming (Where Available)/WEEI 103.7 FM and Friars.com (John Rooke and Joe Hassett)/FriarTV

Game Notes

  • Providence and Creighton will meet for the 18th time ever on Saturday. The Friars lead the all-time series, 12-5. Providence is 7-1 all-time against Creighton in Providence. The Friars swept the Bluejays in both regular season meetings last season and are riding a 5-game winning streak against Creighton.
  • Providence has a record of 12-44 when unranked and facing a top-10 team at home. Their last win came against 8th-ranked Villanova, 83-68, on January 26, 2011.
  • Creighton is 14-1 this season, including a 2-1 record in Big East play. The Bluejays opened the season with 13 straight wins highlighted by victories over Wisconsin, NC State, Ole Miss, Nebraska and Arizona State. Their lone loss came on New Year’s Eve when they dropped a home game to #1 Villanova. Creighton was picked to finish 3rd in the preseason Big East Coaches’ Poll. The Bluejays are led by Greg McDermott, who is in his 7th season at the helm of the Creighton program. Junior Marcus Foster leads the Bluejays in scoring at 18.7 points/game, which ranks him fourth in the Big East. Freshman Justin Patton leads the team in rebounding, averaging 6.5 rebounds/game.
  • Opening Line: Providence +3 vs (10) Creighton 1/7/17

Game Preview

Providence will play their second consecutive game at home after opening with two games on the road in Big East play. The Friars got their first league win on Wednesday night over Georgetown after dropping games at Xavier and Butler last week. Creighton, on the other hand, opened Big East play with two homes games. The Bluejays beat Seton Hall to open things up and extend their winning streak to start the season at 13 until #1 Villanova came to Omaha and beat Greg McDermott’s squad by 10 on New Year’s Eve. Since then, Creighton went on the road to Queens and soundly defeated a St. John’s team that beat Butler on that court less than a week prior. The Bluejays come to Providence have never won a game at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center. Their lone win in Providence came on February 23, 1970 at Alumni Hall on Providence’s campus.

Creighton is one of the elite offensive teams in all of college basketball to this point in the season. The Bluejays rank 7th in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency, 2nd in Effective FG %, 3rd in 2-Point FG %, 4th in 3-Point FG % and they do it all while having the 5th fastest Average Possession Length at 13.9 seconds.

Maurice Watson leads the Big East in assists at 8.8 assists/game and he has the 5th best Assist Rate in the country at 43.1%. Kyron Cartwright trails Watson for the assist lead by 0.4 assists/game but he has Watson in Assist Rate at 44.0%, good for 4th in the country. These are arguably the two quickest guards in the Big East and if both teams run it could be a very entertaining game for fans. A track meet might not be enjoyed specifically by Providence fans, though. 26.7% of Creighton’s possessions come in transition. That’s the second highest rate in the nation. Things don’t get much easier when you can get back and make the Bluejays play offense in the half court. They rank 3rd in the country in Points Per Possession in the half court at 1.032 PPP. The only teams ahead of them are UCLA and Notre Dame with Villanova and Butler just behind them to round out the top 5.

The probable starters according to the game notes are:

Providence
Creighton

The keys to victory for Providence are to get to the slow down Mo Watson, rush back and stop transition and play hack-a-Patton when Justin Patton gets the ball down low.

Watson is dishing the ball at a career-high rate this season. He is the engine that powers Creighton’s offense and facilitates their warp speed pace. Look for Ed Cooley to mix up defensive looks by going to some zone while also throwing different defenders at Watson in man-to-man. Don’t be surprised to see Jalen Lindsey get his hand at stopping Watson if the diminutive guard who started his career at Boston University is getting things done too easily.

Creighton’s transition offense is a large reason why they are shooting nearly 60% from 2-point range on the season. In 3 Big East games they are shooting nearly 65% on 2’s. The Bluejays aren’t an elite defensive turnover team. They run the ball up the floor all the time, even after made baskets. Providence doesn’t really crash the offensive boards very hard anyway and with Creighton’s size advantage up front there’s even less of a reason to do so. The Friars needs to make sure they are hustling back to prevent Foster and Creighton from speeding past them for easy buckets. Providence’s offense isn’t good enough to allow a team to get easy buckets on the other end.

Patton has been one of the best freshmen in the country this season. He’s averaging 13.9 points/game, 6.5 rebounds/game, 1.5 blocks/game and shooting 75.7% from the field. One area the 7-footer from Omaha has struggled with has been free throw shooting. Patton is shooting 45.7% on 40 attempts — the 3rd most FT attempts on Creighton’s team. If Patton catches the ball deep in the post, Providence should use some fouls to force Patton to early 2 points at the line at 47.5% versus making 75.7% of field goals. As a team Creighton takes 43.3% of their shots at the rim. That’s the 29th highest percentage of shots taken at the rim in the country. They also shoot the 30th-best percentage on shots at the rim at 67.8%. Part of that is undoubtedly because they play so much in transition, but Patton is another large reason.

The Friars are facing a stiff test on Saturday afternoon. McDermott’s squad has plenty of weapons and stopping one player won’t be enough to stop Creighton. They are a top-10 team, after all. Cooley called the Bluejays “a monster” and believes they are “one of the best teams in the country.” He’s not wrong on either count. Cooley went on to say “we have to protect home court.” That’s the goal for a Providence team that is 0-4 on the road so far this season. Easier said than done, especially in the Big East.

Prediction: Providence 72 Creighton 80

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