Creighton vs Xavier
When: 2:30 PM ET, Thursday, March 14, 2019
Where: Madison Square Garden, New York, New York
Preview for Digital Sports Desk by Gracenote
NEW YORK – Xavier and Creighton finished the regular season as two of the hottest teams in the Big East and the No. 4 and 5 seeds will square off in a conference tournament quarterfinal matchup Thursday at Madison Square Garden. The Musketeers won six of their last seven games and the Bluejays ran off five straight wins as they teams finished in a four-way tie for third in the Big East.
In the second regular-season meeting, Xavier began its turnaround with a 64-61 overtime victory at home over Creighton on Feb. 13 that ended a six-game losing streak. The Musketeers’ only loss since was 71-66 at Butler on March 5. They’re at least hoping to continue a streak of reaching the conference tournament semifinals in each of the last five years. Creighton’s win streak includes a 66-60 road victory over No. 22 Marquette, the No. 2 seed in the field behind No. 25 Villanova.
TV: 2:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1
ABOUT CREIGHTON (18-13): The Bluejays have enjoyed the most success when they’re hitting 3-pointers and playing good defense. They haven’t lost this season when holding opponents to 61 points or fewer and make 10.9 3-pointers per game, which ranked eighth nationally entering Wednesday. Mitch Ballock, averaging 10.9 points, drained a Big East-record 11 3-pointers Saturday en route to a career-high 39 points in a win over DePaul and has teamed with fellow sophomore Ty-Shon Alexander, the team’s leading scorer at 16.1 points, for 175 3-pointers this season.
ABOUT XAVIER (17-14): Sophomore Naji Marshall (14.9 points) is one of five players with a scoring average in double figures for the season. Second-leading scorer Paul Scruggs (12.2) capped the regular season with 22 points in the win Saturday at home over St. John’s and is also averaging 4.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.3 steals. Quentin Goodin is the team’s quarterback who ranks third in the Big East in assists at 4.7 per game and Tyrique Jones serves as Xavier’s main man on the boards, averaging 7.8 rebounds overall and a Big East-leading 3.4 offensive rebounds.
1. Creighton junior F Martin Krampelj (13.6 points, 6.9 rebounds this season) is averaging 16.6 points and 8.1 boards in the last 21 games, including 20.5 and 7.5 in two contests against Xavier.
2. Xavier graduate F Zach Hankins leads the Big East in field goal percentage (67.5) and ranks second in blocked shots (1.58).
3. Creighton enters the weekend on the NCAA Tournament bubble, according to most bracket experts, and could strengthen its case with at least one win in the Big East Tournament. Xavier’s only chance appears to be to win the conference tournament title.