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#10 Marquette Men’s Basketball Big East Preview Primer: vs #22 Creighton

The Golden Eagles get back in the swing of things by wrapping up 2023 with a visit from the Bluejays.

Princeton v Creighton Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

#10 Marquette Golden Eagles (10-3, 1-1 Big East) vs #22 Creighton Bluejays (9-3, 0-1 Big East)

Date: Saturday, December 30, 2023
Time: 1pm Central
Location: Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Marquette Stats Leaders

Points: Tyler Kolek, 15.3 ppg
Rebounds: Oso Ighodaro, 6.0 rpg
Assists: Tyler Kolek, 6.2 apg

Creighton Stats Leaders

Points: Baylor Scheierman, 18.3 ppg
Rebounds: Baylor Scheierman, 7.5 rpg
Assists: Baylor Scheierman, 4.4 apg Rankings

Marquette: #12
Creighton: #17
Game Projection: Marquette has a 63% chance of victory, with a predicted score of 75-71.

So Far This Season: Things were going just fine for Creighton as long as they are remaining as a member of the Big East and are not leaving for the Mountain West. The Bluejays entered Big East action with a perfect 9-0 mark against teams not in the Mountain West, but a 0-2 record against MW teams. Not only that, but Creighton got absolutely shelled both times. They lost 69-48 on a neutral floor to Colorado State out in Kansas City in a Feast Week event, and then they went out to Nevada and got blasted, 79-64, on the G League Ignite’s court by UNLV.

The faithful down in Omaha probably could have overlooked the losses if not for how Big East play started. One day after Marquette got cracked in the face by Providence on the road and within hours of UConn getting smacked on the road by Seton Hall, Creighton couldn’t handle their business at home. They coughed up an 11 point lead with just over 10 minutes to go, didn’t score at all in the final two minutes of regulation, got forced to overtime, and lost, 68-66, to Villanova. An auspicious start to the conference schedule, to say the least, and one that looks like it’s the worst loss of the three losses suffered by the three projected top teams in the league.

Tempo Free Fun: I want to start with something that’s not a tempo-free statistic. I want to start with the fact that Baylor Scheierman is leading the Bluejays in points, rebounds and assists, which shocked me when I discovered it whilst writing the Whip-Around League Preview.

My point here is not to discredit Scheierman, who is up in both scoring and distribution this season while barely averaging an extra 30 seconds played per game. The biggest question that came to my mind when I saw that was wondering what the hell is up with both Trey Alexander and Ryan Kalkbrenner. Both men were preseason all-Big East First Teamers this year, and Kalkbrenner was a unanimous pick for the First Team. That tells us that he wasn’t all that far from being tabbed as preseason Player of the Year over Marquette point guard Tyler Kolek.

If we’re being honest about it, the answer here is merely “Scheierman is out-playing them.” Alexander is up across the board from last season in all three categories, while Kalkbrenner has, so far, boosted his rebounding back towards where it was when he was a sophomore while keeping his scoring and passing about level from a year ago. Relative to the questions immediately raised by how Creighton would be impacted by the outbound transfers of both Ryan Nembhard and Arthur Kaluma after last season, each of the top trio of men still on the roster being somewhere between “a little” and “a lot” better than last year is why the Bluejays are still one of the best teams in the country, no matter what kind of ranking metric that you want to use.

With all of that in mind, I do want to note something interesting that happened to Baylor Scheierman in Creighton’s Big East opener against Villanova. In the process of losing in overtime to the Wildcats, Scheierman didn’t hit a three-pointer, going 0-for-7 in the process. The last time that Baylor Scheierman didn’t hit a three-pointer in a game was February 5th, 2022, back when he was still with South Dakota State. He was 0-for-3 in an 89-79 road win over South Dakota. He had at least one triple in every game last season for Creighton and each of the Bluejays first 11 games of this year. A bummer to lose the streak, but that’s not what I’m here to talk about.

Scheierman came into that Villanova game shooting 36.6% on the year from behind the three-point line. That’s fine. His shooting percentage dropped to just 34% on the year after that, but that’s not the point. The point here is that after going 0-7 against Villanova, Baylor Scheierman is now shooting 26% from three against what calls top 50 opponents and 28% against top 100 opponents. That’s bad, and it harkens back to something I thought was a huge red flag for him when he transferred to Creighton. In his three years at SDSU, Scheierman shot just 26% in 14 games against top 100 teams and just under 33% in nine contests against top 50 teams. He was fine against top 100 teams last year (34.9%) but somehow worse against top 50 teams at just 30.7%, and those are both with much larger sample sizes than his three seasons at SDSU. Still, if the problem of “top 50 teams are able to defend him and/or his team better” is lurking back into view, especially with his usage on the rise from last season, that could turn into a situation where Marquette can get Scheierman to shoot shots that aren’t really a good idea for him or for the Creighton offense.

Statistically speaking, there’s a lot of similarities between the basic ideas of what Marquette and Creighton are trying to do on offense. Both teams want to lean on shooting a bunch of three-pointers, but they both excel at scoring inside the arc which helps them get open shooters. Both teams do an excellent job keeping track of the ball in order to make sure that they get a lot of shots in the air to outscore the other team. Both teams do a great job of passing the ball to the open man to get a shot, and perhaps as a result that combined with the focus on shooting threes, both teams are objectively bad at getting to the free throw line. Creighton is a much better offensive rebounding team than Marquette, largely because of the 7’1” Kalkbrenner, but they’re not elite at it as a team.

The difference between the two is the speed at which they want to do what they’re doing. Keeping in mind that Marquette rarely turns the ball over, the Golden Eagles have the 11th shortest average possession length in the country according to Marquette is trying to play Seven Seconds Or Less on offense, and on average, they have the ball for less than 15 seconds per possession. Creighton is much more methodical about what they’re doing on offense, coming in at #177 in the country in average possession length. That’s not glacially slow, just notably slower than what MU is trying to do. One of the things that contributes to Creighton being a little bit slower paced? Their defense doesn’t generate turnovers. The Bluejays are literally dead last in the country in defensive turnover rate at 10.6%. Tennessee Martin is second to last at 11.6% and Northern Illinois is next at 12.5%, so it’s not like we’re talking about rounding off pushing the Bluejays to last place. When you’re not creating live ball turnovers and transition attempts — something that Marquette wants to do given their focus on deflections — it slows your offense down by default.

Stat Watch: Oso Ighodaro is four blocks away from becoming the 12th player in Marquette history with 100 career rejections, which would also tie him with Ousmane Barro for the 11th most in program history.

Marquette Last 10 Games: 7-3, with wins in four of their last five contests.

Creighton Last 10 Games: 7-3, with losses in two of their last three contests.

All-Time Series: Marquette leads, 58-39

Current Streak: Marquette swept the season series a year ago, but even after that, Creighton has still won five of the last eight contests.