The styles of play couldn't be any further apart between the Creighton Bluejays and Cincinnati Bearcats.
Creighton (27-7) flies down the court with its 24th-ranked offense, scoring 75.4 points per game and launching 8.8 three-pointers (sixth in NCAA).
Cincinnati (22-11) brings in similar rankings, but in different ways. The Bearcats are a feisty group with their 24th-ranked defense, allowing 58.8 points per game and grabbing 40 rebounds (tied for seventh in NCAA).
Something is going to have to give when these two teams square off in the second round of the Midwest Regional Friday afternoon.
Where: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at the Wells Fargo Center
When: Friday, March 22 at 2:45 p.m. ET
Betting Line: Creighton -3 (via Vegas Insider)
Key Injuries (Injury information provided by USA Today.)
Cincinnati: Jeremiah Davis III (wrist—hasn't played since November 20)
What's at Stake
The winner becomes one step closer to the dream of playing in the Final Four and a chance at the NCAA title.
Creighton is looking to build on its five-game winning streak against one of the most physical defenses in college basketball.
Cincinnati is seeking consistency on offense after losing seven of its last 11 to keep up with the Bluejays' 50.8 percent shooting (first in NCAA).
What They're Saying
Bill Koch of Cincinnati.com shows Creighton head coach Greg McDermott's views on Cincinnati.
UC’s struggles to score in the half court have been evident to McDermott in the film he has watched but he doesn’t necessarily see that as an advantage for the Bluejays.
“We’re not built like Big East teams,” he said, “so that’s going to be our challenge, to be able to control the paint.”
McDermott said Creighton will not change its offensive approach, which is to score in transition and shoot a lot of threes.
WCPO.com talks about the fun bet Cincinnati President Santa Ono made on Friday's contest.
University of Cincinnati President Santa Ono says there hasn’t been any trash-talking with his brother Momoro, who teaches at Creighton University, but the two have made a bet. And their dad is taking sides.
“My brother has to wear a Bearcats jersey at Creighton for a day if Cincinnati wins, and I have to wear a Bluejays T-shirt if Creighton wins,” President Ono told 9 On You Side Monday, looking ahead to Friday’s NCAA basketball tournament matchup in Philadelphia.
Most Important Player to Watch: Creighton's Doug McDermott
The Missouri Valley Player of the Year doesn't just average 23.1 points per game (second in NCAA) on 56.1 percent shooting, Doug McDermott also shoots 49.7 percent from three-point range and 86 percent from the free-throw line.
McDermott has a well-rounded scoring attack. He can play in the post with his strength by leaning straight into the defender, or he can back down the defender and hit the fadeaway.
He also has the necessary speed and ball-handling to get to the basket from the perimeter—if the defender gives McDermott any space, he can knock down the three-pointer.
Combining that with his 7.5 rebounds per game, McDermott will certainly have a significant influence on the outcome of Friday's showdown.
Key Matchup: Austin Chatman vs. Cashmere Wright
This game is about tempo, and both point guards will have a large responsibility in controlling that.
The Bluejays will try to play at a fast pace—Chatman's ability to push the ball is critical. He has the vision and quickness to make the proper decision. Look for the ball to make its way to the wings and corners of the three-point line, where McDermott, Ethan Wragge and Jahenns Manigat will be waiting to pull the trigger.
Meanwhile, Wright needs to make this a half-court game for the Bearcats. The senior point guard must get Sean Kilpatrick and JaQuon Parker quality shots in the beginning minutes. By establishing the pace and not turning the ball over, Creighton could be limited in transition. Keep an eye on Wright's ability to be patient and not force anything early in the shot clock.
The tempo will determine how effective each team is.
Prediction: Creighton 69, Cincinnati 61
Stopping Doug McDermott doesn't guarantee the Bearcats a victory. In the finals of the Missouri Valley tournament against Wichita State, McDermott was held to 14 points on 5-of-13 shooting. With the exception of a brief moment late in the first half, the Bluejays never trailed in the contest and won their 12th conference tournament title.
Creighton's depth and three-point shooting get the job done.