The Jays will play twice over a two-day span in the Las Vegas Invitational. Up first is San Diego State on Thursday. Here’s a preview of the Thanksgiving Day matchup:
When: 9:30 p.m. Thursday
Where: Orleans Arena, Las Vegas
Radio: 1620 AM KOZN
Online: Fox Sports Go
Event info: The Las Vegas Invitational is a four-team event. It's Texas-Tech vs. Iowa first on Thursday night. Then Creighton plays San Diego State. The winners (and losers) will meet on Friday.
2019-20 record: 6-0
2018-19 record: 21-13, 11-7 Mountain West
2018-19 postseason: None
KenPom offensive efficiency: 109th (CU: 8th)
KenPom defensive efficiency: 44th (CU: 107th)
Trending: San Diego State is off to a great start. The Aztecs have taken care of business against the teams they're supposed to handle, winning by double digits five times already. The only close result, understandably, was a road win at BYU, which already has defeated Houston and UCLA. This SDSU squad looks like a potential NCAA at-large candidate.
Series history: Creighton leads 4-2 but San Diego State won the last meeting 86-80 on a neutral floor in 2013.
Junior guard Malachi Flynn: He considered transferring to Creighton last offseason. He even took a visit. So the Jays are well aware of his talent. He’s a shooter (41.9% from long range) and a creater (5.8 assists per game). Plus, he’s good at heating up ball handlers defensively (eight steals in six games).
Junior guard Jordan Schakel: Don’t let him get hot. He made all five of his 3-pointers in the second half at BYU, nailing step-back tries and cashing in off-balance catch-and-shoots. CU will have to watch him on out-of-bounds plays, too. The Aztecs like to run plays through the 6-foot-6 scorer.
Sophomore forward Aguek Arop: The former Omaha South product emerged as a versatile defender during his rookie year. He’s still an off-the-bench contributor (11.8 minutes per game), but his 6-foot-6 frame may help the Aztecs match CU’s small-ball lineup.
Three keys for Creighton
1. Rebound: This is the first time all year that the smaller Jays are going to have to contend with a more traditional power forward and a legit center. Yanni Wetzell and Nathan Mensah, both listed at 6-foot-10, are good offensive rebounders, too. As is Arop off the bench. And since San Diego State rarely gives up second chances to its opponents (ranked 16th nationally in defensive rebounding percentage, according to Ken Pomeroy’s data), Creighton certainly can’t afford to give up offensive boards on its end of the floor.
2. Take care of the ball: The Aztecs might show some fullcourt pressure. They might just assign one player to harass CU’s point guard up the floor. They’ll most definitely use their length and quickness to blow out dribble handoffs and deny perimeter passes. The Jays have been great limiting giveaways to this point — their 15.1 turnover percentage ranks 19th nationally, according to Pomeroy. But this will be their toughest test yet.
3. Make SDSU’s bigs work: On offense, Creighton should have a quickness advantage. It wants to push pace, cut hard, screen often and move the ball around. When San Diego State puts two big men on the floor, one of them will have to chase a guard around and the other will have to stick with CU’s always-moving center. If the Jays are able to effectively exploit the mismatches on their end, they could force the Aztecs to play small — thus negating some of SDSU’s height advantage.
ESPN’s BPI: San Diego State’s win probability is 54.9%
KenPom: Creighton wins 68-66
Jon Nyatawa’s take: It’s possible the Jays lure San Diego State’s guards into an up-tempo style game. But most likely, this will be a slower-paced grinder, where the teams’ offensive precision and defensive effort will determine the outcome. In that case, it’s a toss-up. My guess? A Creighton guard makes a big shot in crunch time to clinch a 73-70 victory.
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