It’s a top 25 match-up between the first-place Pirates and a Creighton team that’s in a three-way tie for second. Can the Jays find a way to win on the road and put some pressure on the Big East leaders? A preview is below:
When: 5:30 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Prudential Center, Newark, N.J.
Radio: 1620 AM KOZN
Online: Fox Sports Go
Record: 18-5, 10-1 Big East
NET ranking: 12th (CU: 24th)
2018-19 postseason: NCAA tournament first round
KenPom offensive efficiency: 40th (CU: 6th)
KenPom defensive efficiency: 8th (CU: 104th)
Trending: A surprising home loss to Xavier on Feb. 1 snapped Seton Hall’s 10-game winning streak. But the Pirates have bounced back with back-to-back road wins. They beat Georgetown before taking down Villanova in Philadelphia. They’re experienced and motivated, and playing their best ball of the season.
Series history: Seton Hall leads 14-6 (the Pirates won both games against CU last year)
Three players to watch
Senior guard Myles Powell: You have to do your best to stay attached to him because if he gets any bit of space, he's rising for a shot or darting by you on a drive. But he’s so good running off screens and so lethal in transition that it’s often difficult for one player to lock him up. And in crunch time, he’s the best in the college game.
Senior guard Quincy McKnight: He’s a tough-nosed point guard who can attack off the dribble and/or navigate around ball screens — then make you pay. He’s the Big East assists leader during league play (7.1 per game), so he’s often looking to create for teammates. But he’s a 35.4% 3-point shooter who’s also capable of creatively finishing at the rim.
Junior forward Sandro Mamukelashvili: A wrist injury had him sidelined for two months, and the versatile 6-foot-11 big man is still probably working his way back. But he dropped 17 points in a win over Villanova on Saturday, making three 3-pointers and grabbing eight rebounds.
Three keys for Creighton
1. Play with pace: This is part of the Jays’ DNA, yes. But they may have to be even more committed to pushing tempo Wednesday. They’ll be at a size disadvantage. When that’s the case, their best countermeasure is to use their speed. And not just in transition. How they cut, screen and move the ball in the halfcourt can make a difference, too. If CU’s effective, maybe it can force Seton Hall to go with a smaller lineup — Mamukelashvili at center, and 7-footers Romaro Gill and Ike Obiagu on the bench.
2. Make shots: Attacking the rim is not an easy task against the Pirates. They rank fifth nationally in block rate (16.6%), according to Ken Pomeroy’s data. Much of that is a result of an eraser like Gill, who leads the Big East at 3.6 blocks per game. The Jays likely don’t want to live exclusively on the perimeter, but they know points in the paint are going to be hard to come by Wednesday. Plain and simple, they’re going to have to make jump shots.
3. Rebound: It is somewhat remarkable that Creighton’s 6-2 in its past eight games because it’s only picked up 63.5% of the available rebounds following opponents’ missed shots during that span. If you extrapolated that defensive rebounding percentage out for the full season, CU would rank 351st nationally (or, third-to-last in the country). That’s bad. And while the Jays will never be an elite rebounding team, they can do better. They’ll need to. You don’t want to give up extra possessions to Seton Hall, which has been the third-most efficient offense during Big East play, according to Pomeroy.
ESPN’s BPI: Seton Hall’s winning probability is 79.0%
KenPom: Seton Hall wins 76-70
Jon Nyatawa’s take: The Jays are always the smallest team on the floor, so they won’t be intimidated by Seton Hall’s size. But can they actually slow down the Pirates, who aren’t as reliant on Myles Powell as they used to be? My guess is no, especially given that CU’s shooters haven’t been consistent on the road. When Seton Hall needs a bucket, it’ll get it, keeping Creighton at arm’s length in a 79-69 victory.