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Creighton heads to Fiserv to take on #10 Marquette

The #22 Creighton Bluejays head to Fiserv Forum on Saturday to take on the #10 Marquette Golden Eagles. This game is interesting on numerous levels — most obvious of which is the large Big East title implications held in this game. Creighton, Marquette, and UConn were the three presumptive favorites to win the conference, yet all three teams dropped their first game in league play. It's a wide-open race with no clear favorite as we begin the march into 2024.

Creighton will be shaking off the rust from a ten-day break after falling at home to Villanova. A game where they led by double digits in the second half. The Bluejays

faltered down the stretch, and fumbled away key possessions in the final minutes. In overtime, Eric Dixon continued to shine for the Wildcats, who ended with 32 points. Creighton had five bench points in 45 minutes, as opposed to Villanova's 15, but we'll get to that later.

Scouting Marquette

Shaka Smart's Golden Eagles are an incredibly tough team to play. Jumping off the page is the turnover disparity. They force over 16 turnovers per game, or 22.8% of opponent possessions end in a turnover, good for 12th in the country. They also don't hand the ball over much, with only 14.9% of their offensive possessions ending in a turnover.

They also do an incredible job of staying in front of dribble penetrators. They allow the 17th least amount of dribble penetration layups in the country, and make opponent offensive possessions take an average of 20 seconds. Pretty incredible stuff. They force you into settling for tough shots after not being able to get into your usual action. Fortunately for Creighton (I guess?), the Jays don't focus too much on guard penetration offensively.

Offensively, Marquette runs a lot of two-man game with Tyler Kolek as the primary ball handler. Kolek is an excellent passer, and one of the twelve best players in college basketball (per He is averaging 15 pts, 6 ast, and 5 reb, while shooting 43% from beyond the arc. He is joined in the backcourt by a cast of fairly interchangeable pieces, which make Marquette really tough. They have five guards that can score, pass, and defend at a high level.

Kam Jones is the Golden Eagles' second-leading scorer (14.8). A wing who can create in isolation but doesn't mind waiting in the corner for an open three as well. The matchup of the day will be down low, with Ryan Kalkbrenner and Oso Ighodaro. When Marquette beat Creighton in Omaha last season, they ran a simple P&R against Creighton's drop coverage probably 15 times in the second half. Kolek and Ighodaro's two man game is elite. I expect Creighton to handle those situations a little differently this time around.

Let's talk about Creighton

The Bluejays come into this one at 9-3, with very clear strengths and even clearer weaknesses. Let's start with the good stuff:

  • Creighton is outrebounding opponents by nine per contest

  • They are the very best at not allowing opposing teams to get to the FT line

  • The Jays shoot the ball at a pretty high clip (49.8%, 37.5%)

Alright, that's a good starting point. The best thing that Creighton does is following its very simple philosophy: don't give up threes and don't foul.

Creighton's opponents shoot the least amount of FT's in the country, and they attempt the second least amount of three-point shots in the country. That's it. That's Creighton's blackjack Basic Strategy for winning basketball games.

Offensively, Creighton has a Point Guard problem. And yeah, I know, I could spend the next ten minutes talking about Stephen Ashworth's lack of production, so much to the fact that McDermott has shown he'd rather have Francisco Farabello out there during crunch-time — but his production isn't the issue. I actually think Ashworth is a fine player.

But trading Ryan Nembhard for Steven Ashworth leaves a void. A void of shot creation, penetration, and distribution at the lead guard spot. Ashworth actually has an oBPR of 4.31 on, good for second on the team. He shoots it well, doesn't turn it over, and spaces the floor pretty well. However, what he doesn't do too well is create. Creighton misses having a true PG. Trey Alexander is a fantastic player and can create his own shot, but he isn't the distributor that Nembhard was.

The other issue is that Creighton simply has an inability to turn other teams over. They are dead last in the entire country in defensive turnover% and steal%. And yes, not taking chances is apart of what leads to them not allow threes and FT's. I get it. But you have to create turnover opportunities to get out and run if you want to have the high-octane offensive tempo. Personally, I'd love to see a little more runtime for Josiah Dotzler. The freshman is quick, is a true distributor offensively, and has a really high defensive motor.


You know, Creighton's three-point barrage gets talked about a fair amount. Yet if you look at the numbers, the 37.5% as a team they are shooting really should go up as the season progresses. Baylor Scheierman, a shooter who I happen to think is one of the better marksmen in the country, is only hitting at 31%. Trey Alexander is at 28%. Both of those guys should trend up as the season goes on. Maybe we get it here tomorrow night in Milwaukee.

Defensively, I'm not sure Creighton can hang with Marquette's athletics guards/wings. They're just so damn quick. I expect Shaka to use a fair amount of Sean Jones off the bench, a player who may just be the fastest in the Big East.

This one is going to be a high-scoring affair, with both teams being able to exploit mismatches. Creighton is 4-1 inside Fiserv Forum, where Marquette is 71-13 against all other opponents there. However, the Golden Eagles have won 19 straight in-conference home games.

I'll take Marquette in tight one, 84-81.


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