Last Updated: 2017-03-06
The highly-anticipated rematch between Creighton and Butler lost a little bit of its luster when Bluejays star Maurice Watson Jr. went down, but this is still one of the games to watch on Tuesday night in the college basketball world. Two teams that can really fill it up in the Big East get together at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis for this Fox Sports 1 broadcast between NCAA Tournament teams. Butler is a 6.5-point favorite, as oddsmakers have had to make a significant adjustment to Creighton’s lines in Watson’s absence. Points are still in the forecast with a move on the over to drive the line up to 149.5 and it appears to be climbing into the 150s later this morning. Readers that want to get involved can do so over at Galaxy Sports. Use the promo code ‘BTB’ and pick up a 100 percent deposit bonus up to $300 on your first deposit.
Creighton is 19-3 on the season, but it’s a tale of two seasons for the Bluejays. Everything before the Maurice Watson Jr. injury needs an asterisk at this stage of the game because he meant so much to that team. Not all hope is lost and Creighton will still go dancing in about six weeks, but the Bluejays are just 1-2 without Watson’s services. Butler is having a quality season with an 18-4 record under Chris Holtmann. The Bulldogs are 13-7 against the spread following an inexplicable, bad loss to Georgetown at home by an 85-81 score.
It’s been really fun to watch the Creighton Bluejays during head coach Greg McDermott’s tenure. McDermott has had three teams in the Dance back in 2012, 2013, and 2014. All three of them won the Round of 64 matchup before bowing out during the first weekend of the event. Creighton should be back in the mix this year, but the team’s upside has been severely limited with the loss of Maurice Watson Jr. The transition to the Big East was a bit challenging for Creighton, which is no surprise. It is a stronger league than the Missouri Valley Conference, which has been dominated by two teams. The rebuilt Big East has teams like Villanova, Butler, Providence, and Xavier, so there was a bit of a learning and recruiting curve for the Bluejays. After a 4-14 conference record during the 2014-15 season, the Bluejays improved to 9-9 last season and are now 6-3 in conference play this season.
Marcus Foster’s workload and responsibilities have increased a bit in the absence of Watson, but it’s nice that the Bluejays had a strong supporting cast to rely on after the injury. Foster scores 18.2 points per game on 48.6 percent shooting. Justin Patton has rounded into form nicely. The seven-foot freshman is still working on his conditioning and ability to handle the rigors of a Division I college basketball season, but he’s scored 14 points per game while shooting over 71 percent. The reason the Watson loss is such a big deal is that he averaged 8.5 assists per game and really facilitated this jump-shooting offense. As a team, Creighton averages 18 assists per game. Watson had 162 assists against 71 turnovers. In three games without him, Creighton has 49 assists against 40 turnovers.
Some soul-searching seems to be going on with the Butler Bulldogs right now. Their non-conference win earlier this season over Indiana doesn’t look as strong as it did, but wins over Arizona and Villanova look better and better given what keeps happening around the country. The Bulldogs’ loss to Georgetown seemed to be building. After needing overtime in D.C. prior to the loss to Creighton, the Bulldogs barely beat DePaul on the road and struggled with a marginal Seton Hall team on the East Coast. The Bulldogs were trending towards one of those letdown types of games and it happened. Now, they’ll have to bounce back before having a week off until the game at Marquette. Head coach Chris Holtmann expressed frustration with his defense, which played awful in the second half against the Hoyas. That marked the first time in Holtmann’s tenure that Butler lost while scoring at least 80 points.
Committing to defense against a team like Creighton is a good idea because the Bluejays still have a lot of scoring weapons. Butler relies heavily on Kelan Martin and Andrew Chrabascz for offense. Martin has scored 16.6 points per game on just 41 percent shooting. Chrabascz has some range as a 6-foot-7 wing player that is shooting 41 percent from distance. The Bulldogs really need more at the guard position. They’ve done a great job taking care of the basketball with just 10 turnovers per game, but Butler also averages just 13 assists per contest. They’re still shooting 47.5 percent from the floor on the season, but only 45 percent in conference play.
College Basketball Free Pick: Creighton Bluejays +6.5
Creighton definitely has some issues without Maurice Watson Jr., but Butler’s defensive woes against Georgetown symbolize a bigger problem than just effort. High-scoring affairs with Xavier and Marquette were reminders that teams in the Big East can really fill it up and Creighton is one of them. When you think about the adjusted power rating for Creighton plus Butler’s home court advantage, it seems like oddsmakers haven’t taken Creighton down all that much. Maybe they’re better than we think without Watson.