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Creighton Preview

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Big East Tournament Quarterfinals: St. John’s vs Creighton

After a couple much needed rest days, the Jayhawks host Creighton in their toughest game of the season so far.

The Blue Jays are 3-0 and are absolutely lighting the nets on fire, coming into this one with the 6th ranked offense according to KenPom. Creighton is shooting a ridiculous 66 percent inside the arc while ranking 3rd nationally in terms of not turning the ball over, so they take a lot of shots and make a lot of shots. Making matters even scarier for the Jayhawks, they shoot quite a few threes but have made fewer than one would expect thus far this season, so if they start to regress a bit, Tuesday could be a wild one.

Defensively Creighton has been stout as well, although it’s worth noting they haven’t played a team ranked in the KenPom top 150 yet and haven’t played a game away from home yet, so this will be a big test for them in a couple facets. Creighton has done a good job so far this year of limiting both 3-point attempts and free throw attempts, although again it’s worth noting they haven’t been at an athleticism disadvantage yet like they will be this afternoon.

Creighton does have a pair of big men inside, standing at 7 foot and 6-11, but they have played just over a third and just over a fifth of the team’s minutes respectively, so like Kansas, Creighton prefers to go small. With their next tallest guy at 6-7, this may be another opportunity for David McCormack to get right.

Players to Watch

Mitch Ballock, 6-5 senior wing

The native Kansan hasn’t really gotten it going yet, shooting under 30 percent from three so far, but he is a career 40 percent shooter from beyond the arc so I suspect his ascension starts Tuesday.

Marcus Zegarowski, 6-2 junior guard

It’s rare for a 6-2 guard to shoot 58 percent inside the arc, but that’s what he has done so far this year. He was efficient inside the arc last season as well (53 percent), and his assist rate is 3 times as high as his turnover rate this year. If ever there were a time for Marcus Garrett to smother an opposing player and take him out of the game entirely, it might be here.

Ryan Kalkbrenner, 7-0 freshman center

The aforementioned 7 footer, Kalkbrenner hasn’t played more than 15 minutes in a game yet, but when he’s been in he’s made his minutes count. He leads the team in usage and is shooting 69 (nice) percent, so why wouldn’t he. He’s also been an excellent offensive rebounder and rim protector.

The Pick

I lucked out and looked at the wrong line for Saturday’s game so even though I thought Kansas would cover, the score I predicted means I win. This gambling stuff is easy.

Anyway, after what we witnessed on Saturday (and last Tuesday), it’s tough to be too confident. If Creighton doesn’t play Kalkbrenner much, and if Garrett can take one of Creighton’s big time perimeter players out of the game, I like the Jayhawks to win.

But Kansas has struggled guarding the interior so much this season that with Creighton’s ability to get easy baskets inside seemingly at will plus the threat of a 3-point barrage plus Kansas looking sluggish due to a condensed schedule (and maybe a virus circulating throughout the team) I think that will be too much to handle and I’ll take Creighton to win and cover, 81-73.

2020-21 Record ATS: 3-1