The Jays will open Big East play with a New Year’s Day clash against the Golden Eagles. CU’s won seven straight games. Marquette’s on a five-game winning streak. Something’s got to give. A breakdown of the match-up is below:

When: 8 p.m. Wednesday

Where: CHI Health Center

Radio: 1620 AM KOZN, 101.9 FM KOOO

TV: CBS Sports Network

Opponent info

2019-20 record: 10-2

NET ranking: 35th (CU: 24th)

2018-19 postseason: NCAA tournament first round

KenPom offensive efficiency: 31st (CU: 17th)

KenPom defensive efficiency: 38th (CU: 101st)

Trending: Marquette’s transformed its identity. It’s gone from a scoring machine that only thrives in shootouts to a defensive juggernaut that’s capable of grinding out victories. During the Golden Eagles’ current five-game winning streak, opponents are averaging 0.85 points per possession while shooting 34.6% from the floor.

Series history: Marquette leads 55-33 (Creighton went 1-1 against the Golden Eagles last year)

Injury report: Starting guard Koby McEwen did not play Saturday because of a strained thumb.

Three players to watch

» Senior guard Markus Howard: Just an elite scorer who requires a defense’s full attention. He leads the nation at 26.3 points per game. Creighton’s guys know. Howard torched them for a total of 86 points in two games last year. Long and quick defenders have had some success slowing him down, but CU doesn’t have anyone who fits that mold.

» Senior guard Sacar Anim: He’ll take and make open 3s (shoots 45.9% from long range). Your best bet is to turn him into a driver, but he’s capable of attacking an out-of-rotation defense and finishing in the paint.

» Junior forward Theo John: He’s a 6-foot-9, 255-pound enforcer who’s one of the league’s best at protecting the rim (ranked 31st nationally in individual block percentage). His physicality will create problems for CU’s foul-prone bigs.

Three keys for Creighton

1. Get back on defense. Finding Howard is the first priority. But Marquette’s other ball-handlers can hurt you, too. The Golden Eagles have produced a 63.0 eFG% in transition situations, according to Hoop-Math.com. But in the halfcourt? Their eFG% plummets to 49.0. So getting organizing and eliminating quick-strike scenarios will be key. Marquette’s been credited with an average of 22.6 fastbreak points per game in its past five outings.

2. Defend without fouling. Well, easier said than done against the Golden Eagles. Howard is first in the country in fouls drawn per 40 minutes (8.6), according to Ken Pomeroy’s data. McEwen and the bigs know how to get to the line, too. But if the Jays can stay disciplined, they’ll make things easier on themselves. Marquette managed a TOTAL of 20 points from the free-throw line in its two losses — but it AVERAGED 20.6 free-throw makes per game during its 10 wins.

3. Attack the paint. The Golden Eagles will try to bother CU with their length and athleticism. They may press some. They’re surely to extend out and push the Jays off the 3-point line. Creighton has to counter with under-control drives, collaborative passes and strong finishes. John will be waiting at the rim, but his presence can’t deter CU’s guards from getting downhill.

Predictions

ESPN’s BPI: Marquette’s win probability is 50.3%

KenPom: Creighton wins 77-76

Jon Nyatawa’s take: In a toss-up game that’s likely to come down to the wire, the effectiveness of the Golden Eagles’ supporting cast will be the deciding factor. Markus Howard is going to get his. And Creighton’s offense is suited to keep up. But if Marquette keeps the pressure on CU by finding additional ways to score (beyond Howard), it’ll be in a good position to win. I think that happens. The Jays lose, 75-70.

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