Creighton @ Seton Hall December 28 Free Pick

By College Basketball

Big East play begins on Thursday and the biggest game of the day will take place in Newark, New Jersey where #23 Seton Hall hosts #25 Creighton.

It’s the first time since 2001 that Seton Hall will play in a game between two ranked opponents. They’ve been in the Big East all this time so what that really says is that it’s the first time Seton Hall has been ranked for quite some time. It’s made the NCAA Tournament once since 2006 but there’s optimism — almost certainty — that this year’s team is going back to the Big Dance.

The Pirates are giving four points at home on Thursday evening.

Free Pick

On paper, these teams are quite evenly matched. Creighton comes in at #30 in the KenPom rankings, while Seton Hall is #30. Creighton’s offense is ranked 20th and Seton Hall’s 23rd. The Blue Jays’ defense is a respectable 52nd, while the Pirates excel at #25. Cumulatively, Seton Hall is just less than two points better than its first Big East opponent this season.

I’m optimistic about Seton Hall’s outlook in the NCAA Tournament this season. It’s one of the teams that I’ve starred early on as one that could make a run as a middle seed and that has made me bullish on the Pirates in general, which I’m not sure is right.

I like their NCAA Tournament potential because of the seniority. Khadeen Carrington, Desi Rodriguez and Angel Delgado have played impact minutes since their freshman seasons. Now, they are three talented seniors who know how to play together and have fit the rest of the team in amongst themselves. Rodriguez leads the team with 18 points per game, Delgado averages a double-double and leads all active players in Division-I with 59 career double-doubles. Khadeen Carrington is the guy who makes the offense go and the most dangerous scorer who just happens to have the most playmaking responsibility too. He dropped 41 points in last season’s win over Creighton. When it gets down to crunch time, Carrington is the guy who will take the final shot.

Creighton is a good team, too, and probably a little underrated. A lot depends on how Marcus Foster is shooting. He’ll certainly come into this game confident after winning Big East Player of the Week last week. Khyri Thomas is one of the best five perimeter defenders in the country. When he can lock down the other team’s dominant scorer, Creighton is at its best, but that won’t be the case against Seton Hall, which has a balanced scoring attack. The Pirates can just move away from Thomas and explore the other options. That is a look Creighton doesn’t always have to deal with.

So I’m going to take Seton Hall just because I’m on the bandwagon. I think the Pirates are the better team and with the home court advantage, they’re apt to start conference play with a cover.

Free Pick: Seton Hall -4

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