Last Updated: 2017-03-06
Matchup: Akron Zips at Creighton Bluejays
Date/Time: December 3, 8:00 p.m. ET
TV: Fox Sports 2
College Basketball Betting Odds From Bookmaker
Spread: Creighton -14.5
Kangaroos and Bluejays. In college athletics, it feels like every other team is named ‘Tigers’ or ‘Wildcats’, but Akron and Creighton combine to give us one of the more entertaining mascot matchups of the season thus far. This game means a lot more than that, though. The upset-minded Zips are a double-digit dog on the road in Omaha against the Bluejays, who cannot afford a slip-up here before taking on in-state rival Nebraska. These two teams are 13-1 combined and this could be a game that exceeds the small amount of hype that it is getting.
Both teams love to bomb away from distance, so this is one of those games that becomes a really tough handicap. Combined, Akron and Creighton have shot 51 three-pointers per game, so there could be a lot of variance in the outcome of this one based on which team is shooting the ball well. The Zips are 6-1 straight up, but just 1-3 against the number. Their ATS losses are against Youngstown State, Georgia Southern, and Mercer. The only outright loss was YSU. The others were straight up wins without a cover. The lone SU and ATS win came against Air Force. Creighton is 7-0 straight up and 5-1 against the number. The Bluejays have played a far more difficult schedule, with Wisconsin, NC State, and Ole Miss already on the slate. Creighton failed to cover against the Rebels, but owns SU/ATS wins over Wisconsin, Washington State, NC State, Loyola-MD, and Buffalo.
Keith Dambrot has done a tremendous job with the Akron Zips during his tenure and he’s been able to recruit some of the better players in the Mid-American Conference. He led his team to the NIT last season, where they took Big Brother Ohio State to overtime in the #3 vs. #6 matchup. The Zips went 26-8, but missed out on the Big Dance with a few ugly losses and no signature wins. The only realistic ticket to the Field of 68 from a conference like the MAC is to win it. Akron did not. The Zips are the media poll favorites to win the MAC, but they have games left against Creighton, Coppin State, Gonzaga, Marshall, and UC-Irvine before opening up conference play.
The Zips had a couple of losses from last year’s team, but most of the productive players have returned. The leader is “Big Dog” Isaiah Johnson, who has 15.7 points and six rebounds per game in just 24.7 minutes of action. The Zips have been able to empty the bench a lot this season, as Noah Robotham is the only player averaging over 26 minutes per game. Antino Jackson and Robotham join Johnson in the double figures club. The Zips are ninth in the country in made three-pointers per game with 10.7 and they are 20th in total three-pointers attempted with 198. They’re not afraid to fire away. That will be the big key to this game. Opponents are shooting 34.2 percent from deep against Creighton.
Creighton is into the top 10 in the AP Poll, so there are very high aspirations for the Bluejays. Now in the Big East, Creighton faces a tough conference schedule that includes the likes of Xavier, Butler, and reigning champion Villanova. Like Akron, Creighton missed the Big Dance last season and went to the NIT. They beat Alabama and Wagner before falling to BYU in Provo in one of the better games of the NIT. Creighton lost five of its last six down the stretch, including a first-round Big East Tournament loss to Seton Hall to fall off the bubble and hit the ground hard.
One thing we know about Creighton is that they can score. Through seven games, the Bluejays average 92 points per game. They’re shooting 54 percent from the field as a team and they’re shooting 46.3 percent from deep. The Bluejays have four players in double figures, led by last season’s leading scorer Marcus Foster. Foster is shooting 47 percent from three-point range on a team-high 45 attempts. Khyri Thomas and Justin Patton combine for 27.4 points and 11.3 rebounds per game. Maurice Watson Jr. facilitates the offense with over eight assists per game. Creighton, like most teams that shoot a lot of threes, can be beaten on the glass, so that will be their Achilles’ heel going forward, but Akron’s offense is similar and they also struggle a bit on the window.
College Basketball Free Pick: Creighton Bluejays -14
This is a really difficult handicap. As mentioned, this is a game with a wide range of outcomes based on which team shoots the ball well or if both of them do. With Akron going to an unfamiliar venue, their reliance on the deep ball may be a hindrance. On the other hand, Akron had two losses by 14 or more points last season and one was against Villanova, the eventual champion. The Zips are a tenacious bunch and Dambrot is an excellent coach, so they keep games close. The biggest edge for Creighton here is that Akron has played a terrible schedule, so this is a game that they may not be ready for. Look for a Creighton first half play because it may take Akron a bit of time to get up to speed.
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