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:
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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.
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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2016: Creighton players from left Toby Hegner, Tyler Clement and Kobe Paras react to a play in the first half. The Jays would lose to Rhode Island 84-72 in the first round.
2016: Creighton's Justin Patton reacts to a call as he fouls out of the game.
2016: Creighton's Toby Hegner reacts to the loss to Rhode Island in the locker room after the game.
2016: Creighton's Marcus Foster is fouled by Rhode Island's Cyril Langevine.
2014: Creighton coach Greg McDermott hugs his son, Doug McDermott, as he leaves the game during the final moments of an 85-55 loss to Baylor.
2014: Doug McDermott, from left, Ethan Wragge, Will Artino, Jahenns Manigat and Austin Chatman sit on the bench during the game's closing minutes.
2014: CU's Doug McDermott gets a clear shot at the basket.
2014: CU's Austin Chatman, center, and the rest of the team take in the loss in the locker room after the game.
2014: Creighton's Ethan Wragge hits a second-half three point basket in front of the Creighton bench during a 76-66 Jays' victory.
2014: CU's Grant Gibbs fights with Louisiana's Elfrid Payton under the basket.
2014: Doug McDermott drives to the hoop as Louisiana-Lafayette's Elfrid Payton, No. 2, Shawn Long, No. 21, and Elridge Moore, No. 22, defends during the first half.
2014: Austin Chatman celebrates teammate Jahenns Manigat, No. 12, scoring a basket while being fouled.
2013: Creighton's Doug McDermott, left, and Grant Gibbs try to press Duke's Mason Plumlee.
2013: Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and Creighton coach Greg McDermott exchange a few quick words in the hall after the game.
2013: Gregory Echenique, front, and the other players applaud the fans at the end of the Duke game.
2013: Creighton's Doug McDermott doesn't find much space against Duke's Mason Plumlee.
2013: Gregory Echenique goes for the hoop past upended Cincinnati defender Justin Jackson. The Jays would win 67-63.
2013: Creighton's Doug McDermott looks for an open teammate against the Cincinnati defense.
2013: Creighton's Gregory Echenique, left, and Ethan Wragge, right, acknowledge the fans following the win over Cincinnati.
2012: Creighton's Josh Jones gets off a 3-pointer over North Carolina's Harrison Barnes. The Jays would lose 87-73 in the third-round matchup.
2012: Creighton's Gregory Echenique dunks over UNC's John Henson.
2012: North Carolina's John Henson, right, confronts Creighton's Grant Gibbs, left.
2012: CU's Ethan Wragge, left, and Josh Jones, center, reflect in the locker room after the loss to UNC.
2012: Alabama's Trevor Releford missed a game-winning shot with CU's Josh Jones playing tight defense. Creighton would win 58-57.
2012: CU's Avery Dingman, left, embraces Grant Gibbs after Alabama's final shot didn't go in.
2012: Creighton's Doug McDermott, left, and Gregory Echenique, right, crowd Alabama's JaMychal Green.
2012: The referee keeps a close eye on Alabama's Andrew Steele as he plays tight defense against Creighton's Doug McDermott.
2007: Nevada's Kyle Shiloh, right, pokes the eye of Creighton's Nate Funk while both track a loose ball in the air during the Jays' 77-71 overtime loss.
2007: Creighton's Anthony Tolliver shoots against Nevada's Denis Ikovlev.
2007: Creighton's Dane Watts throws his elbows as he protects the ball from Nevada's Dennis Ikovlev (from left), Nick Fazekas and Marcelus Kemp.
2007: Creighton's Nick Porter reacts to the Bluejays' loss to Nevada.
2005: Creighton's Anthony Tolliver reacts to a foul called on him during the Jays' 63-61 loss to West Virginia.
2005: Creighton's Johnny Mathies, center, jumps for two but is swatted by West Virginia's Johannes Herber, right.
2005: Creighton fans cheer during a timeout after the Bluejays took a 10-0 lead to open the game against West Virginia.
2005: Creighton coach Dana Altman watches from the sidelines as the Bluejays and West Virginia duke it out.
2003: Creighton's Kyle Korver loses the ball after stealing it under the Central Michigan basket. The Jays would go on to lose 79-73.
2003: CMU's J.R. Wallace, left, and Tony Bowne, on floor, chase a loose ball with CU's Kyle Korver, No. 25, and Tyler McKinney, No. 24.
2003: Creighton coach Dana Altman watches Central Michigan take the lead in the second half.
2002: Creighton's Kyle Korver, left, tries to get by Illinois' Cory Bradford in the second round of the NCAA tournament. The Jays would fall 72-60.
2002: Creighton's Larry House has layup is blocked by Illinois' Robert Archibald.
2002: Illinois coach Bill Self yells during his squad's game against Creighton.
2002: CU's Terrell Taylor kicks Cory Bradford's pass.
2002: Creighton's Terrell Taylor puts up the game-winning shot in double overtime to beat Florida 83-82 in a first-round game of the NCAA Midwest Regional.
2002: Creighton's Brody Deren, left, shoots over Florida's Udonis Haslem.
2002: Florida's Justin Hamilton, left, ties up Creighton's Joe Dabbert in the second half.
2002: Creighton's Kyle Korver celebrates after CU goes into overtime against Florida.
2001: Iowa's Jason Smith and Creighton's Kyle Korver scramble for a loose ball during the second half of the Hawkeyes' 69-56 win over the Jays.
2001: Creighton's Livan Pyfrom throws down the dunk over Iowa's Dean Oliver and Duez Henderson.
2001: Creighton seniors Ben Walker, left, and Ryan Sears leave the court after losing to Iowa.
2000: Creighton's Ben Walker, right, drives against Auburn's Scott Pohlman in the first round. The Jays would go on to fall 72-69.
2000: Creighton's Ryan Sears, left, and Justin Haynes, right, trap Auburn's Scott Pohlman.
2000: Creighton coach Dana Altman tries to get the Bluejays into position to press after they come with three-points of tying the game in the last minutes.
2000: Creighton seniors Donnie Johnson, left, and Matt West, right, watch the seconds tick away on their final game of their careers at Creighton.
1999: Creighton's Corie Brandon, right, leans around Maryland's Danny Miller, left. The Terrapins would win 75-63.
1999: Creighton coach Dana Altman signals jump ball to the officials after his players tied up Maryland.
1999: Creighton's Rodney Buford drives against Maryland's Laron Profit.
1999: Maryland's Terrell Stokes , left, and Steve Francis, right, right, box in Creighton's Ben Walker.
1999: Members of the Creighton basketball team, including Donnie Johnson, left, Justin Haynes, No. 40, and Alan Huss, No. 34, celebrate during the closing moments of an upset win over Louisville in the first round.
1999: Creighton's Ben Walker, on ground, reaches for a loose ball between Louisville defenders Cameron Murray, left, and Marques Maybin, right, during the second half.
1999: Creighton's Ryan Sears reaches out to attempt to knock the ball away from Louisville's Marques Maybin.
1999: Creighton's Doug Swenson, left, and Ryan Sears , No. 5, pressure Louisville's Tony Williams.
1991: Bob Harstad, the 1990 Missouri Valley player of the year, goes up for a shot over Seton Hall's Anthony Avent, the 1991 MVC player of the year, with Chad Gallagher getting position for a possible rebound. The Jays would go on to lose 81-69 in the second round.