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Marquette Basketball Preview Primer: at #7 Creighton Bluejays

The Death Stretch continues with a trip to Omaha.

NCAA Basketball: Butler at Creighton Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Marquette Golden Eagles (12-6, 3-3 Big East) at #7 Creighton Bluejays (18-1, 5-1 Big East)

When: Saturday, January 21, 2017, at 1:30pm Central
Where: CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Nebraska
Television: Fox
Streaming: Fox Sports Go
Radio: 540 ESPN Milwaukee
Live Stats: StatBroadcast

Marquette Stat Leaders

Points: Markus Howard, 12.9 ppg
Rebounds: Luke Fischer, 5.7 rpg
Assists: Haanif Cheatham, 3.3 apg

Creighton Stat Leaders

Points: Marcus Foster, 18.1 ppg
Rebounds: Justin Patton, 6.6 rpg
Assists: Khyri Thomas, 2.6 apg

Hey, Wait A Minute: Yes, Khyri Thomas is technically not leading Creighton in assists. We’ll get to it in a minute.

Current KenPom Rankings

Marquette: #38
Creighton: #15
KenPom Projection: Creighton has a 79% chance of victory, with a predicted score of 88-79.

Tempo Free Fun: Well, I have no idea what to write here.

With the gaudy record assembled by the Bluejays to this point of the season, there’s obviously a lot of things that they have been doing very well. However, Maurice Watson, Jr., went down with a blown ACL during their Monday afternoon game against Xavier, and that has the potential to completely alter what Creighton looks like on both offense and defense for the rest of the season.

Creighton has started the same five guys all season. Only seven Bluejays have appeared in all 19 of their games, and four of the five starters average over 25 minutes per game. Three of them are averaging more than 28 minutes per game. Watson leads everybody on the team in minutes played. And now he won’t play at all.

Watson has one of the 125 highest usage rates in the country, according to KenPom. He ranks in the top 400 in effective field goal percentage and top 500 in true shooting percentage. Watson isn’t much of a shooter, doing a lot of his offensive work inside the arc, but he’s knocked down 15 of his 31 (48%) three point attempts, which is no joke. He leads the country in assists per game, and if you prefer your numbers in a tempo free format, Watson has the fifth highest assist rate in the country.

That’s just his impact on the Bluejay offense. Watson is a high level steals guy, too, ranking in the top 325 in the country, and he’s one of the least foul prone players in the country, ranking #395 with just 2.5 fouls per 40 minutes.

And now all of this goes away.

What we can say about Creighton is this: Watson was injured with 6:55 left in the first half against Xavier. Watson’s injury came after he completed a layup to tie the game at 21, and he had drawn a foul on the play, and Khyri Thomas came in and sank the freebie on the and-1. 22-21 Creighton, and Watson would not return. With the game happening in Xavier’s building and with it being very obvious that Watson wouldn’t come back, at least not in this game, Creighton beat the #22 ranked Musketeers 72-67 and led by as many as 11 with 7:32 left in the game.

That’s probably a bad sign for Marquette’s chances in this game. Greg McDermott gets four days to prepare to face the Golden Eagles without Watson, not just one halftime break like he did against the Musketeers. Will Creighton be as good as they had been so far this season, with KenPom’s seventh best offense and 51st best defense? Probably not. They’re also not going to just quit and die, either.

Marquette Last 10 Games: 6-4, with the loss to Butler snapping a two game winning streak.

Creighton Last 10 Games: 9-1, with a five game winning streak.

All Time Series: Marquette holds a 50-32 advantage.

Current Streak: Marquette snapped a two game losing streak to the Jays with a win in Omaha last season. Creighton has won four of the last six meetings, though.

Jajuan Johnson Watch: The senior from Memphis is three steals away from tying Kerry Trotter for the 10th most steals by a senior at 47.

Luke Fischer Watch: Fischer currently ranks 5th on Marquette’s career blocks chart with 120. He recorded two blocks to pass Michael Wilson at 119. Fischer’s really going to have to pick up the pace to tie to Chris Otule in 4th place at 135, though.

Markus Howard Watch: With 40 made three pointers on the season, Howard has the 9th most by a freshman in Marquette history and his next make will tie Dominic James for 8th. He still needs another 25 or so attempts on top of his current total of 77 to crack the top 10 there.

Sam Hauser Watch: With 38 made threes, Hauser has the 10th most long balls by a freshman, and yes, that includes Howard in front of him. The kid from Stevens Point is a little closer to the attempts top 10 than his Arizona counterpart with 81.

Follow Along On Twitter

@MarquetteMBB - Official Marquette account
@BluejayMBB - Official Creighton account
@AnonymousEagle - Hey! That's us!
@becb_sbn - SB Nation's Big East site
@whitebluereview - Our favorite independent Creighton blog
@Matt_Velazquez - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel beat reporter