The Creighton Bluejays (6-1) will take on in-state rival Nebraska (7-0) at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln this Sunday. Creighton has won eight of the last ten matchups against Nebraska. However, last year in Omaha, the Huskers took home a 63-53 victory while taking it right at a mononucleosis-riddled Ryan Kalkbrenner.
Creighton enters this contest after a resounding win over Oklahoma State on the road. A game where Steven Ashworth had 17 points, a high in his short time at Creighton. Ashworth's first seven games as a Bluejay have had ups and downs, but a productive Ashworth changes the dynamic of the offense. He punished big men for dropping on screens, hitting multiple jump shots off the dribble.
After unprecedented bench production through five games, the key core for Creighton has started to take the reigns. Kalkbrenner, Ashworth, Scheierman, and Alexander combined for 74 of Creighton's 79 points in the win over Oklahoma State.
Scouting the Huskers
Now, Creighton takes on a Nebraska team that has the potential to be the best Husker hoops squad for quite some time. Nebraska is an exceptionally balanced team, having four players average between 14-16 points per game. Rienk Mast is arguably the most important, a 6'10 Bradley transfer who mans the middle. Mast averages nearly 15 points and 10 rebounds, while also having the ability to step out and shoot the three. A fairly athletic big who can step out and shoot but also has solid presence around the rim fits Hoiberg's system to a tee. Mast has scored in double digits each game this year, but he hasn't been guarded by a defender remotely as dominant as Ryan Kalkbrenner.
Mast isn't the only transfer of note for Nebraska. Brice Williams shipped over from Charlotte this offseason, and fills a lot of holes for Fred Hoiberg. He's a 6'7 wing who has the court vision of a guard, and shoots the three at a 40% career clip. Nebraska has run multiple sets this season to get Williams into space — he's just a really unique matchup. His length has led to him leading the Huskers in blocked shots.
Keisei Tominaga and Juwan Gary round out the quartet of high-scoring Huskers. Tominaga, an Olympian, has been claimed 'Japanese Steph Curry' by the Big Ten Network. His range truly is remarkable, but he hasn't been the sharpest on the defensive end of the court. Matchup wise, it'll be interesting to see how that is handled by both sides. Juwan Gary is a hard-nosed forward who seems to be in the right place at the right time. He missed the first three contests, but has led the Huskers in scoring ever since.
Of the last [many] contests between these two teams, there hasn't been a lot of years with this level of expectations from both sides. Creighton has their eyes on a deep March run, and Nebraska thinks this could be the team to get them back to the big dance.
One thing to keep and eye on would be Rienk Mast. The Bradley transfer is exceptionally unproven against opponents of Creighton's caliber. He is in his fourth year, but only has played real minutes against one good power six team, which was Arkansas last season (Without Nick Smith). So, the jump up in competition will provide a real test for Mast down low.
I'm not sure how Nebraska will handle screens against Creighton, especially after watching the OSU game. One thing is for certain, though: there's nowhere to hide against Creighton. All five players can shoot, score, and distribute. Keisei Tominaga can't lag behind. He and Brice Williams have been essentially a net negative on the defensive end, per Evan Miya.
Give me Creighton to roll big in this one.