After two easy wins in the home portion of the Las Vegas Invitational the trip to Vegas promises to be a much tougher test. Things start off with a matchup of two top 25 teams as the Badgers take on 14th ranked Creighton to start things off in Sin City. It's the only matchup of ranked teams in the event as the other semi-final is Arizona State vs. Arkansas. Wisconsin and Creighton haven't met since a 1949 meeting that saw Wisconsin win 75-39. The Badgers and Bluejays will square off at 9pm CT on ESPN2 tonight.
Creighton comes in to this game undefeated at 4-0 but haven't faced a big named opponent until Wisconsin, defeating North Texas, UAB, Presbyterian and Longwood heading into the trip to Las Vegas. Their leading scorer is the only returning first team all-American from a season ago, Doug McDermott, who is averaging 16.8ppg and has 7.5rpg on the early season. The only other starter averaging double figures scoring is Gregory Echenique at 118ppg. He also leads the team with 7.8 rebounds a game. As a team the Bluejays are averaging a blistering 85 points per game and only allowing 56.5 points to their opponents. Creighton has also taken good care of the basketball, only averaging 11.3 turnovers a game.
In their last outing at home in the Las Vegas Invitational the Bluejays crushed Longwood 105-57. Overall all four games for Creighton have been at home.
Matchup of the Game:
The easy answer would be anyone covering Doug McDermott and that is important, but the matchup that will really be key is Jared Berggren vs. Gregory Echenique at center. Both Echenique and Berggren are their teams 2nd leading scorers with Berggren pouring in an average of 14.3ppg, 7rpg, and is averaging 3 blocks a game defensively.
McDermott is going to get his points, but if Berggren can be the solid defensive player he's been in his career it will help slow down a fast paced attack and force the Bluejays into actual offensive sets. That's something they aren't comfortable with to say the least. If the 2nd scorer for Creighton can be limited by Berggren and if Berggren can be a force down low & outside in the Badgers offensive attack it will be a long day for the Jays.
Keys to the Game:
Yep, we are going to beat a dead horse here, but tempo will be key for the Badgers in this one. They had all sorts of trouble in transition against another run-and-gun opponent in Florida and if they are going to be successful in slowing down another face paced attack then they need to be better in transition. That alone will force the 'Jays to play at the Badgers tempo. KenPom.com has Wisconsin as the 8th ranked AdjO and 7th ranked AdjD in the country and they will be going up against 7th ranked AdjO and just the 67th ranked AdjD. That means if Wisconsin can slow the pace down and shoot relatively well it's very much to their advantage as Creighton isn't nearly as good defensively as the Badgers are – statistically speaking of course.
Prediction: Wisconsin 72, Creighton 68