The days of dominating the Missouri Valley are over and, for Creighton, a second straight loss doesn’t just seem possible; it seems likely. The Blue Jays continue to battle their way through the Big East schedule and travel to Pennsylvania Monday for a big-time matchup with the Villanova Wildcats. Despite playing a pretty challenging schedule year to date, Creighton hasn’t seen a ranked opponent until today. Nova enters the day as the #6 team in the nation and is projected to improve that number when the updated rankings become public later on in the day. Greg McDermott’s squad is trading as a 5.5-point road underdog.
It took fans across the country a little bit of time but it’s safe to say that people know Villanova is for real now. Wins over Kansas and Iowa in the Bahamas and only one loss to the hands of Syracuse in the Carrier Dome have Villanova in the conversation as a Final Four contender. The ‘Cats are 5-0 in the Big East thus far but Creighton will become their toughest conference test yet. Nova looks to use superior size and strength in the paint to dominate Creighton underneath. Even the guards for Villanova will be about as big as any player on the floor for Creighton – a team that plays small and relies on superior outside shooting. It will be a challenge for the Jays to stay with Nova, though.
The injury to Grant Gibbs will be one of the most overlooked injuries of this season. Gibbs dislocated his shoulder two weeks ago, which puts the Jays’ starting point guard out of action for an estimated 4-6 weeks. The loss not only removes a productive player from Creighton’s rotation (6.1 points 4.1 assists 3.4 rebounds) but neutralizes one of the smartest and best floor generals in the nation. Fortunately for Creighton, it has a surplus of guards that can fill in to swallow the minutes in Gibbs’ absence but no combination of Avery Dingman, Austin Chatman, Devin Brooks and Jahenns Manigat will fully replace Gibbs. It also means that Greg McDermott will rely even more on his son, Doug, to run and initiate the offense. While Gibbs could run a good portion of the offense to set up McDermott, Creighton loses that facilitator – a piece it missed dearly in a blowout loss at the hands of Providence on Saturday.
I think between the raw talent and ability of Villanova and being on the road without Gibbs isn’t a good-looking proposition for Creighton. Nova is just too big a athletic for the Jays that will do their best to shoot their way into this one. Villanova gets it done and covers the medium-sized number.
Free Pick: Villanova -5.5