I don’t know why this game gets an entirely separate post for a prediction, but it does. I suppose one could say it is due to the importance of this game, but I don’t want to start putting too much emphasis on any one contest as we saw the possible disappointment of that with the Baylor game. Still, this is an important game. A win tomorrow night will put Northwestern in a great position for a successful NCAA Tournament run. However, such a win will be tough to get. Not only does Creighton field a pretty good team, but they’ll have a Big Ten-like home court advantage with 17,000 people expected at the CenturyLink Center. The fact is that Northwestern didn’t excel on the road last season in Big Ten play has me a bit nervous. Still, if Northwestern is going to make the tournament they need to play well on the road in the Big Ten so why not establish that ability vs Creighton?
Looking at Creighton, they’re a fast paced, score a ton of points, play average defense type of team. That’s fairly similar to Northwestern, though, I’d say Northwestern can be better on defense just based on the unpredictability of using the 1-3-1 zone. Also, while we can’t say Luka Mirkovic is a superstar, he does give Northwestern the biggest player on the court. That counts for something on defense and on the glass if Luka brings an attitude of aggression to the court.
The numbers say Creighton is a better offensive team than Northwestern and Creighton forward Doug McDermott is playing out of his mind. He’s the nation’s second leading scorer and makes 57% of his threes! Basically, he’s John Shurna last year before Shurna’s ankle injury. I know Northwestern is going to present more of a challenge for McDermott than the Jays’ previous opponents, but I’m still worried about him and his offensively talented teammates.
I expect a fast paced up and down style game. I’m a little worried NU won’t have as much of an advantage as they might in some non-conference games because this is the second year in a row NU has played Creighton and it is the third year in a row Greg McDermott has coached against NU having guided an Iowa State team NU beat two years ago. Without a doubt this game will be high scoring. The team that shoots better will probably win it and though I totally hope I’m wrong, Creighton does average more made threes than NU and I think Creighton has the advantage playing in Omaha. I predict: Creighton, 87 Northwestern, 82*
*I predicted NU to beat Baylor so clearly I can be wrong.