CREIGHTON BLUEJAYS (15-3)
at VILLANOVA WILDCATS (16-1)
The Pavilion - Villanova, PA
Tip-off: Monday, 7:00 p.m. ET
Line: Villanova -6.5, Total: 147.5
The two top Big East teams tip off Monday night when Creighton travels to No. 4 Villanova, aiming to give the Wildcats their first conference loss of the season.
Villanova has lost just one game all season, falling on the road to No. 2 Syracuse, but has bounced back well since that defeat, going 5-0 SU (4-1 ATS). All of those games were against Big East opponents whom the Wildcats are beating by an impressive 16.4 PPG. They are now 12-3 ATS overall (6-1 ATS at home), and over the past two seasons are 8-0 ATS against teams forcing fewer than 12 turnovers per game. The Bluejays have been a strong bet as well, going 11-5 ATS overall and 4-1 ATS on the road. They are 5-1 SU (4-2 ATS) in conference play where they have outscored these teams by 11.9 PPG. But Creighton is coming off its lone Big East defeat, losing at 3.5-point underdog Providence 81-68 on Saturday. All three of its SU losses this season have come in non-home games (two neutral court defeats), and the Bluejays have yet to play a ranked opponent this season, but they are 6-0 ATS on the road after a double-digit loss under head coach Greg McDermott. Villanova has won all three meetings between these programs, though the most recent of those came in 1952.
Can Villanova remain unbeaten in the Big East with a convincing victory? For the latest college basketball picks, check out The Platinum Sheet for all the StatFox Experts selections every week throughout the entire 2013-14 season. The StatFox Experts have been rolling in college basketball Best Bets this season with a 59% ATS (158-108-5) mark, including a stellar 63% ATS (126-74) record since Nov. 23. StatFox Zach is a strong 60% ATS (32-21-1) on Best Bets this season, including 65% ATS (26-14) since Nov. 22. StatFox Brian is also at 60% ATS (32-21-1) for the season and 64% ATS (25-14) since Nov. 26, while StatFox Scott is 59% ATS (32-22) for the season and 63% ATS (22-13) since Dec. 2. StatFox Gary is 58% ATS (31-22-2) for the season, and 66% ATS (23-12) since Dec. 3, while StatFox Dave is 59% ATS (31-22-1) for the season and 67% ATS (14-7) since Dec. 18.
Creighton leads the nation with 18.5 APG, leading to a hefty 81.8 PPG (21st in Div. I) on a 49.1% shooting clip (14th in nation). The Bluejays make 10.8 threes per game (3rd in Div. I), with a 42.5% accuracy rate (2nd in nation). Defensively, they have held opponents to 65.9 PPG on 40.9% FG despite forcing only 10.8 turnovers per game. National Player of the Year candidate senior PF Doug McDermott (24.9 PPG, 7.2 RPG) dominates the teamís offense, making 50% of his FG attempts this season and 43% of his threes. Heís averaging 28.0 PPG over the teamís past three contests, in which heís made 55% of his FG. Fellow senior SF Ethan Wragge (11.7 PPG, 4.4 RPG) is the only other Bluejays player averaging double-digit points, and he has been red-hot from three-point range all season at 49% (65-of-134). Creightonís leading passer, senior SG Grant Gibbs (6.1 PPG, 4.1 APG) is out with a knee injury, meaning thereís more pressure on junior PG Austin Chatman (7.2 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 3.8 APG) and senior PG Jahenns Manigat (8.0 PPG, 3.2 APG) to run the offense and find good opportunities for McDermott. Manigat has a sparkling 4.1 Ast/TO ratio and makes 44% of his threes.
The Wildcats also feature a high-octane offense, averaging 81.3 PPG (26th in Div. I) and 16.2 APG (22nd in nation). They are extremely good at getting to the line, making 20.2 free throws per game (23rd in Div. I) on a 72.4% clip, and defensively they force an impressive 15.2 turnovers per game, leading to a low 65.4 PPG on 38.8% FG allowed. At home, they are outscoring visitors 82.7 PPG to 59.8 PPG, and are outshooting them 48.4% FG to 37.5% FG. Junior PF JayVaughn Pinkston (15.6 PPG, 5.3 RPG) leads the offense, hitting 51% FG, but is just 5-for-24 (21%) from three-point range. Heís joined down low by sophomore PF Daniel Ochefu (4.9 PPG, 5.8 RPG), who isnít much of a scorer, but leads the team with 1.8 BPG in only 19.4 MPG. Six-foot-6 SG James Bell (13.9 PPG on 36% threes) leads the team in rebounding at 6.2 RPG, and is coming off a 17-point, eight-rebound performance against DePaul on Saturday, snapping a cold stretch of four consecutive games in which he finished with single-digit points. Junior PG Darrun Hilliard II (13.7 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 3.1 APG) and freshman SG Josh Hart (10.1 PPG, 4.7 RPG) also can score in the backcourt, making 58% FG and 46% threes (21-of-46) this season. The same goes for sophomore SG Ryan Arcidiacono (9.7 PPG, 3.0 APG), who is averaging 13.7 PPG over the teamís past three, and has shot a blistering 56% FG (46% threes) in five Big East games.