It’s business as usual heading into the Big East Championship game Creighton vs. Villanova matchup. Even coming into the weekend as a rare #2 seed, the Wildcats are in position to win the postseason tournament for the fourth time the last five years it has been held (cancelled in 2020, Georgetown won in 2021).
Make no mistake Creighton knows the situation as well, playing for the Big East conference crown last season before getting dominated 73-48 by the Hoyas. That puts the Bluejays 0-3 in the Championship Game, also losing to Villanova in 2017 and Providence in 2014. Creighton has actually taken three of the last five in the head to head series, so don’t count them out even as +7 point underdogs.
Creighton Offense Gives Them a Chance
There are many people who thought Creighton limped into the Big East tournament, losers of two of their last three in the regular season. Boy, that couldn’t be further from the truth after the Bluejays have reached the championship game via a 74-63 win over Shaka Smart and Marquette and then an 85-68 shellacking over the #1 seed Providence Friars.
Creighton’s offense has exploded so far in the conference tournament and it hasn’t even been leading scorer Ryan Hawkins (14.3 ppg) doing most of the damage. Granted Hawkins did have 18 vs. Marquette, but only chipped in 8 (with 12 rebounds) vs. Providence. For the most part though it’s been a balanced effort from Arthur Kaluma (15.5), Ryan Kalkbrenner (14.5), Alex O’Connell (13.5) and Trey Alexander (13.0) who have all averaged over 13 ppg the last two.
Some 20+ win teams are still on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament, but Creighton (22-10) is said to be about a 78% favorite to get an at-large bid. Of course the Bluejays can eliminate the uncertainty altogether with a win on Saturday to claim the at-large bid as Big East champs.
One More for Gillespie?
5th Year Senior Collin Gillespie has already been a part of three Big East Championship teams as well as the 2018 National Championship. This week he added more hardware to his collection being named the Big East Player of the Year (for the second straight season) as well as the Scholar-Athlete of the Year. A win over Creighton to claim a fourth conference crown would make Gillespie arguably the most decorated athlete in college basketball history.
Villanova almost didn’t make it to this spot though, struggling to a 66-65 win over St. John’s in the tourney opener and then barely getting by Connecticut in a 63-60 win on Friday. Gillespie has only averaged 9.5 ppg in the two tournament games.
Villanova has shot 36% and 43% from the field in their first two tourney games, and the outside shot will need to be falling on Saturday considering Creighton has the conference Defensive Player of the Year roaming the paint in the 7’1 Kalkbrenner.
Free Big East Creighton vs Villanova Betting Pick
Villanova hasn’t looked great so far this tournament yet are still -7 point underdogs. Does that have trap written all over it especially since Creighton just eliminated the #1 seed by 27 points? 78% of public betting is on the Bluejays which doesn’t help things any. Both teams have 20+ point wins over each other this season on their own court, but the line is saying Villanova must do it again on a neutral site.
Villanova 79 – Creighton 65
Free Pick: Villanova -7