Despite their freshly announced defection, the Creighton Bluejays are an established entity. So are the Cincinnati Bearcats. That should make this game easy to predict, right? Not necessarily; this game could be as difficult to figure out as Adidas' insistence on bringing back the 1990's atrocity that is Zubaz.
Credentials: In retrospect, this team's non-conference schedule was fairly weak. They did notch victories over Wisconsin, Akron and California, though only the last of those was on the road. Including their BracketBusters loss to Saint Mary's, the Jays finished the season only 6-5 on the road, which included a loss against Drake. In spite of some slightly increased struggles from long range, the team was still highly efficient and productive on the offensive end, thanks as usual to the stud that is Doug McDermott. Unfortunately, they also continued last season's trend where describing their defense as "suspect" might be generous.
Talent: Outside of McDermott, Creighton has a number of good-but-not-great players. Gregory Echenique got Olympic experience, but still struggles on the glass far more than someone his size should. Grant Gibbs and Austin Chatman are solid distributors, but this is most definitely a team of shooters who need those opportunities to drop in order to stay on the right side of the scoreboard.
Credentials: Obviously, this team from the Big East, or American 12, or whatever, inherently played some tougher teams. That doesn't mean their resume is any more impressive, since they only went 4-8 against all those Top 50 RPI teams they played. Their road win over Pittsburgh on New Year's Eve is clearly their biggest win, and they are 9-10 since that game. This is the old school slow the pace and bore you to tears Big East offense, JaQuon Parker is the only player who shoots the three regularly and well, but they are a quality rebounding club.
Talent: Sean Kilpatrick leads the way, and he isn't the most efficient scorer but he is able to get his without blocking his teammates from getting points. Usually. Whether or not Parker and Cashmere Wright are able to contribute regularly - both in terms of finding their own shots within the offense and making those shots, is its own issue.
Bottom line: Unlike our other MVC versus Big East matchup, these teams are opposites that have been forced to attract. My gut tells me to go with Cincinnati on this one, because they may struggle to score sometimes but they do not struggle to defend and slow the game down - something Creighton has struggled with before. I think the Bearcats will take this one, but only just barely.
Cincinnati 72, Creighton 71
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