The CBE Hall of Fame Classic isn’t in the Carribbean but it finished in time for all the players and coaches to get home for Thanksgiving and it provides four high-quality teams a chance to play two games against good competition before the season picks up from here.
Creighton outscored UCLA 100–89 in one of the semifinal matchups. Marcus Foster scored a team-high 23 points and the Blue Jays maintained a double-digit lead that they cut open midway through the first half. Baylor topped Wisconsin in the other half of the bracket, Manu Lecomte only made four shots from the field but finished with 24 points for the Bears, who managed to hold off the Badgers in the second half. Ethan Happ was Wisconsin’s lone starter in double-figures with 23 points.
And so we have our championship matchup. Either Creighton or Baylor will be the deserved recipient of one of the season’s first trophies before going home happy for the holiday. They’ll tip off at 10 pm from the Sprint Center in Kansas City
Both games on Monday highlighted the contrasting styles between the two teams. Creighton likes to play fast and score 80, 90, 100 points. The Jays start four guards around a 6’9″ forward from Slovenia. Baylor starts three forwards and likes to play a little slower, but not necessarily any more methodically.
Don’t be deceived by the numbers and the stereotypes we have about teams that run up the score. Creighton plays with lots of discipline on offense but there are so many outside shooters and playmakers off the dribble that it doesn’t often need a lot of time to find an open shot. And once a good shot opens up, whoever has the ball will shoot it.
Baylor can’t spread the floor like Creighton can but it does other things well. It’s a big and physical team that sets lots of screens, feeds the ball inside and then kicks it back out. The Bears have more length and athleticism than the Blue Jays and will throw lobs up at the rim often.
It’s a little backwards because you think the higher-scoring team (Creighton) wants to run but I don’t think the Jays are better suited playing up and down against Baylor. The Bears’ athleticism will thrive in the open floor but if Greg McDermott can slow things down and make it a half court game, Creighton’s offensive precision and timing will disrupt the Bears’ bigs. Creighton will also be able to spread the bigger players of Baylor out to the perimeter, where they won’t be able to play four guards off the dribble.
Look for Baylor to try and speed thing up with aggressive defense that will force pace and maybe even lead to turnovers, which are important to Baylor’s success in this game. If Creighton’s guards can handle pressure and take care of the ball, I like the Jays to win this game, topple their third ranked opponent in a row and take the trophy to Nebraska.
Free Pick: Creighton +2
Baylor Bears • Creighton Bluejays • Hall of Fame Classic