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Marquette Basketball Preview Primer: at Creighton Bluejays

40 minutes for the season. No pressure.

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

Marquette Golden Eagles (14-11, 5-8) at Creighton Bluejays (19-7, 8-5)

Date: Saturday, February 17, 2018
Time: 9:15pm Central
Location: CenturyLink Center, Omaha, Nebraska

Marquette Stat Leaders

Points: Markus Howard, 21.9 ppg
Rebounds: Sam Hauser, 6.0 rpg
Assists: Andrew Rowsey, 4.2 apg

Creighton Stat Leaders

Points: Marcus Foster, 20.3 ppg
Rebounds: Ronnie Harrell, 6.5 rpg
Assists: Davion Mintz, 3.0 apg

Creighton Injury Note: Ronnie Harrell is only leading the active Bluejays in rebounds. Martin Krampelj averaged 8.1 rebounds per game before blowing out his ACL against Seton Hall on January 17th. He is, quite obviously, done for the season.

Current KenPom Rankings

Marquette: #51
Creighton: #22
KenPom Projection: Creighton has a 74% chance of victory, with a predicted score of 87-80.

Tempo Free Fun: Before we get to the Bluejays, we should probably address the elephant in the room.

If Marquette would like to not worry about the outcome of the Big East tournament in connection to an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, they can not lose this game. They also can’t lose next week Wednesday at home against St. John’s, nor on the road against DePaul or Georgetown, nor at home again against these very same Bluejays. Marquette is currently 5-8 in Big East play. They are currently appearing on a grand total of two brackets out of 74 in the Bracket Matrix. They can not afford to lose any more games without depending on getting extra wins in the Big East tournament.

By the way, on the topic of getting wins in the conference tournament, if it were starting today? Marquette would be the #7 seed, playing #10 seed St. John’s on the opening night doubleheader. If, through the grace of God, Marquette were able to get a win against the Red Storm in New York City, that would earn Marquette a game against #2 seed Villanova 12 hours later.

Probably best to not depend on the conference tournament, huh?

Onwards to the actual game, then.

As mentioned a little bit earlier, Martin Krampelj is done for the year with an ACL injury. He has missed the last six conference games, plus CU’s random non-D1 games against Bemidji State on Wednesday night, so the Creighton that we’ll see in Omaha on Saturday night will really be that team, much more than the team that went 15-4 overall and 5-2 in league play with Krampelj.

The question is: What exactly is that team?

Since Creighton knew that Krampelj was done for the year, the Jays have gone 3-3 in Big East action. The wins: at St. John’s by five, at home against Georgetown by eight, and at DePaul by one. The losses: at Providence by 14, at Villanova by 20, and at home against Xavier by one. That Xavier game was particularly goofy as hell, as the referees handed out some pretty questionable fouls in the final 30 seconds that first put the Jays up and then turned around and put the Musketeers up at the final horn.

Good news: They’re beating the teams that they should probably beat, even without Krampelj. Bad news: They’re not beating anyone else. Well, bad news for them, perhaps good news for Marquette?

More potentially interesting to good news for the Golden Eagles: As you might expect, Creighton’s defense is struggling ever so slightly without their starting center. I guess, technically, Toby Hegner is taller than Krampelj, so he would in theory be the “center” on the starting five. However, I tend to believe that if you’re getting outrebounded nearly 3-to-1, you don’t get to be referred to as the “center” in the lineup. ANYWAY, check out this chart from BartTorvik.com. It’s keeping track of their adjusted defensive ranking in a manner of formats: game by game, their average for the season as it changes after every game, and finally, the average from the last five games only. The red dot on the second line from the right is the loss to Providence, aka their first game without Krampelj. Look at the moving average and the five game average lines since that Providence game. Creighton’s defense has gone rocketing upwards without Krampelj occupying 23 minutes a game and hanging around in the top five in the league in rebounding average.

Luckily for Creighton, this defensive upswing hasn’t particularly affected them yet. According to KenPom, the Bluejays currently have the second best defensive efficiency in the Big East, trailing only Providence. Even if they drop off notably as the season winds its way towards March, they might only end up in the middle of the league in terms of a season long efficiency, and that can’t possibly be that bad of a thing. Still, if Creighton is going to struggle to stop teams down the stretch, that is going to benefit Marquette in a big way. The Golden Eagles are going to play the Bluejays twice in a 15 day stretch, and if they can finagle two wins out of them because their defense just happens to be lighting itself on fire on a regular basis, then so be it.

Hopefully, Marquette’s offense will be ready to take advantage of Creighton’s weaknesses. Remember that defensive rating chart for Creighton? Here’s Marquette’s adjusted offensive rating in the same system from BartTorvik.com. Yep, that’s right: MU has been a roving dumpster fire with the ball, relative to the rest of the season, for about the exact same timeframe as Creighton’s defensive struggles. Marquette has trouble defending almost literally anyone. When the MU offense is clicking, then they can absolutely burn anyone’s barn to the ground. If it’s not clicking, though, and the defense can’t stay in front of anyone...... that’s a really bad recipe for the on-court product.

Marquette Last 10 Games: 3-7, with losses in five of the last six games.

Creighton Last 10 Games: 6-4, alternating losses and wins in their last four games.

All Time Series: Marquette leads, 52-32

Current Streak: Marquette has won the last three contests.

Greg Elliott Watch: The freshman from Detroit has the sixth most blocks by a freshman with 20. Up next is current MU women’s basketball assistant coach Scott Merritt, who had 25 in 2000-01.

Theo John Watch: John recorded five blocks against Providence before sitting out against Seton Hall and St. John’s to give him 19 on the season. That has him in a three-way tie for the seventh most by a Marquette freshmen with Sam Hauser and Charles Luter. He’s one behind the aforementioned Greg Elliott and six behind Scott Merritt.

Sam Hauser Watch: I feel so bad for the sophomore from Stevens Point. After assembling one of the greatest freshman shooting campaigns in Marquette history, he’s doing the same thing as a sophomore and is being completely overshadowed by Markus Howard yet again. Hauser has 71 made threes, which is tied with Aaron Hutchins for the fifth most by a MU sophomore. Two more tie him with Darius Johnson-Odom and Anthony Pieper for third. His 144 attempts from long range are the 10th most by a soph, passing David Cubillan at 116, but it’ll be a while before he gets to Darius Johnson-Odom at 154.

Andrew Rowsey Watch: Rowsey now has 81 made three-pointers on the season, which is the fourth most by a Marquette senior and the 9th most in any MU season. Matt Carlino’s 83 is up next on the senior list, and Markus Howard’s 82 from last year is next on the all-time list. Rowsey is up to 197 three-point tries this season, which is the 5th most for a Marquette senior. Next up is Matt Carlino at 198, and Darius Johnson-Odom is at 200. 197 is good enough for eighth most in any single season in a Marquette uni.

Markus Howard Watch: It’s official: This is one of the best sophomore scoring seasons in Marquette history. With 18 points against St. John’s, Howard is up to 547, and that is the second most by a second year player. The only one in front of Howard now is the one and only Dwyane Wade at 571. Howard’s 84 made three-pointers are the second most by a Marquette sophomore, trailing only Steve Novak’s 89, and have surpassed himself from last year and Matt Carlino for the sixth most in any single season. Jerel McNeal is next on the all time list with 86. Howard’s 221 three-point attempts is now the most by a Marquette sophomore, surpassing Novak’s record of 207. 221 long range attempts in a season is also the sixth 200+ attempt season in Marquette history and the 2nd most in any single season by any Marquette player, trailing only Novak’s senior season (259).