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Creighton Falls to Providence; Awaits NCAA Tournament Seeding

The Creighton Bluejays were defeated on Thursday night in MSG in their first Big East Tournament game. Providence emerged victorious 78-73, largely in part to a poor shooting performance from Creighton.

Creighton's leading scorer on the season, Baylor Scheierman, went just 4-16 from the floor and 2-10 from three-point range. His shooting splits were fairly indicative of the entire Bluejays offense, which simply stuttered out of the gate and didn't shoot it well the entire way.

Devin Carter and Josh Oduro were held (for the most part) in check, but offensively nothing was clicking for the Jays. The Jays recorded three total bench points, a trend Creighton fans are all too familiar with. It's something that probably won't change anytime soon, but it sure is worrisome.

Steven Ashworth ended with 16 points, albeit on just 3-13 from the floor. He still showed a lot of good things on the offensive end. Trey Alexander and Ryan Kalkbrenner were both also in double digits, at 19 apiece.

Another big key in this game was the turnover battle. That was won in a large part by the Friars. Creighton had 11 turnovers to PC's five. For the Jays to do all of the things they want to do here in March, they'll need to win turnover battles, or at the very least be more competitive in them.

With 3:24 left, Creighton was down 70-68. Ryan Kalkbrenner headed to the line for a one and one, and missed the front end. With the same score less than a minute later, Trey Alexander went to the line and missed both free throws. The next time down the floor, Baylor Scheierman ended up having a point-blank layup, and it rimmed out.

That was a pretty key sequence — three missed FT's and a missed layup in the span of a minute and change. Providence answered in the final two minutes with baskets from Josh Oduro and Devin Carter.

Creighton will more than likely be locked into the three-seed line, regardless of what happens in conference tournaments tonight and tomorrow. It's always a crapshoot trying to determine locations, but I think both Salt Lake City or Pittsburgh would certainly make sense for Creighton to be in the first round.

As far as opponents go, on the 14 seeds currently listed are: Charleston, Akron, Oakland, and Morehead State. Of these teams, I think there would be two fantastic draws, and two that would present more of a challenge. First, let's start with Morehead St., the winner of the OVC conference tournament. Morehead was the preseason consensus pick to win the conference, despite one of their best players being injured.

Morehead plays a very slow brand of basketball, limiting possessions and making the most of them, having one of the higher eFG% numbers in the nation. However, stylistically, Creighton's defense should be able to stifle them a bit. They have a lot of success at the rim, but haven't faced a center like Kalkbrenner. In their two jumps up in class, they lost by 30+ to both Alabama and Purdue. Morehead would be a great draw for the Jays.

Now, for Charleston. Pat Kelsey is my most favorite coach in the country. Exceptionally charismatic and a X-O genius. However, their free-flowing stylistic preference would play right into Creighton's hands. Brzovic (12.3 ppg) is probably the best individual player that Creighton could face in round one, but nonetheless - the matchup favors Creighton.

Akron is fascinating. The potential MAC champion presents a different kind of challenge due to their defensive energy. They also have a duo of Ali Ali (former Big East player) and Enrique Freeman that could match Creighton athletically. Of course, they have to win a tough MAC Conference Tournament, but if they do it would not be a team I'd want to play if I was the Jays. They hung tough with both Utah State and UNLV when they bumped up in class in the non-con.

Finally, the nightmare scenario. Oakland solidified their spot in the tournament by winning both the regular season and conference tournament in the Horizon. Trey Townsend (16.9 ppg, 7.8 rpg) and the rest of the Golden Grizzlies could prove difficult.

Oakland runs a zone about 90% of the time defensively, and it's a tricky zone to figure out. There's not a ton of true principles - which, you'd think would be an insult. But it's not, they are a tough, tough bunch to prepare for. Especially with only a couple days to do it. Creighton fans remember heartbreak in the NCAA Tournament against a zone in the past, this one wouldn't be too fun.

Creighton will await their seed and opponent on Selection Sunday (3/17). It can be seen on CBS at 5:00 CT.


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