Welcome to my first Friday NCAA basketball preview of the season. Fridays are definitely the worst day of the week in terms of quality teams in action in college basketball. But it will give me a chance to take a look at some good mid-major teams (and Ivy League schools) that otherwise might be overlooked. And there might not be a better mid-major this season than No. 13 Creighton -- sorry, I no longer consider Gonzaga a mid-major with its decade-plus run of success. Other than the Zags, Creighton is the highest-ranked non-BCS conference school in the country, just ahead of Butler in the AP poll.
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And I recommend watching the Bluejays if you get a chance (Friday’s game is on ESPN3). Last season they were among the best-shooting and highest-scoring teams in the country, and this year is no different. Led by all-American Doug McDermott, the top returning scorer in the nation from last season, Creighton leads the nation in three-point shooting (44.9 percent), ranks No. 2 nationally in field-goal percentage (51.9 percent) and No. 13 in scoring (80.2). The Bluejays were overwhelming favorites to win the Missouri Valley Conference for the second year in a row.
Creighton at Missouri State Betting Story Lines
Two seasons ago, Missouri State was the powerhouse in the MVC, winning the regular-season title with a 15-3 mark. However, the Bears were upset by Indiana State – Larry Bird’s alma mater – in the conference tournament final. MSU hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 1999. Last year, the team fell off to 9-9 in the conference and 16-16 overall. And this year the Bears were picked to finish eighth in the 10-team conference.
If you go by the nonconference schedule, that pick looks accurate as MSU (5-11) lost to the likes of Alabama A&M, Oral Roberts and Jacksonville. In fact, the Bears’ two nonconference wins were against Philander Smith and Malone University. If you can tell me where either school is or what its nickname is, you are my sports trivia hero. But Missouri State has looked solid in Valley play with a 3-1 mark. The only loss is to Evansville in overtime, and the Bears played their best game of the season on Tuesday, beating Illinois State 62-55 as a 10-point underdog. The Redbirds were picked to finish second in the Valley behind Creighton but are now 0-4 in conference play, so maybe it’s not that good of a win. MSU has been a double-digit dog five times this season already and has covered three straight in that situation.
Senior guard Anthony Downing is the team’s best player, averaging a team-high 14.6 points and 2.6 assists along with 4.1 rebounds. But the Bears are a terrible offensive team. Throw out those two nonconference wins against schools I have never heard of, and MSU has reached the 70-point barrier just twice. It has been held under 60 nine times. Missouri State ranks No. 313 in points per game (59.8) and No. 303 in field-goal percentage (39.8).
Creighton (15-1, 4-0), off to its best start in 10 seasons and has won nine straight since a 13-point home loss to a very good Boise State team that went in and won at unbeaten Wyoming on Wednesday night (and nearly upset Michigan State). The Bluejays haven’t been challenged in their four MVC wins. Tuesday, they beat Drake 91-61. Creighton shot a whopping 67.9 percent in the first half (9-for-13 from long range). Ethan Wragge tied his career-high in that one with 22 while McDermott had 16.
McDermott is No. 4 nationally in scoring at 22.6 percent (No. 3 with 119 field goals made) and is shooting a stellar 55.1 percent from the field and 49.3 percent from long range. Last season, McDermott finished third in the country in scoring at 23.2 per game. The 6-foot-8 junior forward also is a very good rebounder, averaging 7.3 per game. Yet McDermott isn’t even the most accurate shooter on his own team. Center Gregory Echenique averages 10.8 points per game and shoots 67.6 percent from the field, No. 5 nationally. The Bluejays also share the ball, ranking No. 5 in assists at 18.4 per game. They had 28 assists on 34 field goals against Drake.
Last season, these teams split two meetings, with each winning on the road. In the first game, Missouri State stunned No. 19 Creighton, 77-65, in Omaha. McDermott was held to 19 points (8-for-18 shooting) and just one in the game’s final 10 minutes. It was Creighton’s first loss at home as a ranked team since 1975 (19 games). And it was Missouri State’s first win in six road games against ranked teams. In the rematch in Springfield, No. 18 Creighton (a two-point favorite) escaped with a 66-65 win. McDermott was again held in check with 15 points. Missouri State missed two late shots for the win. There were 16 ties and 10 lead changes in the game. The Bears beat Creighton three times in the 2010-11 season.
Creighton at Missouri State College Basketball Betting Odds and Key Trends
At BookMaker, Creighton is a 14-point favorite. There is no early-line total. MSU hasn’t had a total above 130.5 yet, while Creighton’s has varied from 128.5 to 183. I would project low 140s here. The Bluejays are 11-3 ATS (3-0 on road) and 4-2 “over/under”. Missouri State is 5-6 ATS (2-2 at home) and 2-2 O/U.
The Bluejays are 1-4 ATS in their past five games after scoring at least 90 points in the previous game. Creighton is 7-2 ATS in its past nine following a win of at least 20 points. Missouri State is 4-0 ATS in its past four games. The Bears are 2-6 ATS in their past eight at home. They have covered just three of their past 16 Friday games. The over is 5-1 in Creighton’s past six against MVC foes. The under is 8-1 in MSU’s past nine against teams with a winning record. The under is 6-1 in the past seven in this series. Creighton has covered just once in the past five meetings.
Creighton at Missouri State Picks and Betting Predictions
Creighton is tied with for the national lead (Duke) with 15 wins against Division I competition. The only chance MSU has of winning is if Creighton is off from long range. However, Creighton has made 10 or more three-pointers in all four MVC games and is shooting 53.1 percent from the arc in those four. And Creighton also has won 24 straight games when tied or leading at halftime.
Missouri State has played two ranked teams thus far, losing by 16 at home to San Diego State and falling by 20 at Oklahoma State. However, MSU has given Creighton problems in recent years, winning six of the past seven. Eleven of Creighton’s last 13 games at Missouri State have been decided by seven points or fewer. Some schools just always give another one problems, regardless of the talent discrepancy. Take MSU and the under.
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