College Basketball Big East Championship Handicapping Picks: Providence Friars vs #14 Creighton Bluejays

2014 Big East Tournament – Championship Game
Madison Square Garden – New York City, New York

#4 Providence Friars vs #2 Creighton Bluejays
Saturday, March 15, 2014, 8:30 pm Eastern, TV: Fox Sports 1
Opening Line: Creighton -7
Current Line: Creighton -7 1/2
Opening Total: 147
Current Total: 147
Opening Money Line: Creighton -325 / Providence +265
Current Money Line: Creighton -350 / Providence +298

Creighton is a 7.5 point favorite against Providence in the Big East Championship game Saturday in New York.
Creighton is a 7.5 point favorite against Providence in the Big East Championship game Saturday in New York.

The 26-6 Creighton Bluejays and 22-11 Providence Friars meet Saturday in the Big East Championship game in New York City. Creighton is looking to win its third straight conference championship game after winning the Missouri Valley Conference tournament the last two seasons. Creighton will likely be a #3 seed in the NCAA tournament, but has a shot at moving to the #2 line with a win here. Creighton went 14-4 in their first year in the Big East, and finished second behind 16-2 Villanova. The Bluejays beat #10 seed DePaul 84-62 in the quarterfinals Thursday and #3 seed Xavier 86-78 in Friday’s semifinals.

Providence went 10-8 in the conference and tied for third with Xavier and St. John’s. The Friars were the #4 seed in the Big East Tournament based on the tiebreaker. The Friars are on the bubble for the NCAA tournament but might have played their way into the field by advancing to the championship game. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi projects the Friars to be in one of the play-in games. Providence beat #5 seed St. John’s 79-74 in the quarterfinals and then beat #8 seed Seton Hall 80-74 in the semifinals. Seton Hall had previously upset #1 Villanova in the quarters. The Friars are looking for their first Big East title since 1994.

Providence leads the series against Creighton 7-5. Each team won by double digits on their home floor in the series this season. The Friars won 81-68 in Providence January 18. Creighton returned the favor 88-73 last Saturday in the regular season finale in Omaha.

Providence is coached by Ed Cooley. The Friars have losses to Maryland in a tournament in the Virgin Islands, Kentucky in Brooklyn, at Massachusetts, Seton Hall, Villanova twice, at Marquette, St. John’s, at Xavier, at Georgetown and at Creihgton. Providence has key wins over Boston College, Brown, Marist, Vermont, Vanderbilt and LaSalle in the Virgin Islands, Fairfield, at Rhode island, Yale, Georgetown, at St. John’s, Creighton, Butler twice, Xavier, DePaul twice, at Seton Hall, and Marquette. Providence has won 5 of their last 6 games. The Friars are 17-15 ATS and the total is 19-13 this season.

Providence is outscoring teams 74-70 this season. The Friars are shooting 42.6% from the field and 35.2% from 3 point range. Providence is second nationally in free throw shooting at 77.8% from the line. Friar opponents are shooting 44.3% from the field and 33.3% from 3 point range. Providence averages 36.9 rebounds per game and opponents average 30.1 per game. The Friars average 13.8 points, 11.8 turnovers, 5.6 steals and 5 blocks per game. Opponents average 11.9 assists, 11.1 turnovers, 5.8 steals and 3.2 blocks per game.

Guard Bryce Cotton averages 21.3 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 5.9 assists. Forward LaDontae Henton averages 14.1 points, 7.6 rebounds, 1.7 assists, and 1.4 steals per game. Forward Kadeem Batts averages 12.5 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game. Forward Tyler Harris averages 11.6 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1 steal per game. Josh Fortune and Carson Desrosiers will also get significant minutes. Desrosiers leads the team in blocks with 2.5 per game. Guard Kriss Dunn is out for the season with a shoulder injury, but played in only 4 games before the injury.

Creighton is coached by Greg McDermott. The Bluejays have losses to San Diego State and George Washington in a tournament in Fullerton, CA, at Providence, at St. John’s, at Xavier, and at Georgetown. The Bluejays have won 3 straight games after a 2 game losing streak.  Creighton has key wins at St. Joseph’s, Tulsa, Arizona State in Fullerton, at Long Beach State, Nebraska, California, Marquette twice, Seton Hall twice, DePaul twice, Xavier, Butler twice, Villanova twice, Georgetown and St. John’s. Creighton is 18-12 ATS and the total is 13-16-1 ATS this season.

Creighton is outscoring teams 80-68 this season. The Bluejays are #18 nationally in scoring. Creighton is shooting 50.1% from the field and 42.8% from 3 point range. The Bluejays are #3 in field goal shooting and #1 in three point shooting nationally. Creighton is #15 in free throw shooting nationally making 75.1% at the line. Bluejay opponents are shooting 42.3% from the field and 32.8% from 3 point range. Creighton is averaging  34.7 rebounds per game and opponents average 29.4 per game. The Bluejays average 17.8 assists, 10 turnovers, 4.1 assists and 1.4 blocks per game. Opponents average 12.3 assists, 10 turnovers, 5 steals and 2.8 blocks per game.

Creighton forward Doug McDermott (son of coach Greg) is the consensus favorite to win the national player of the year. McDermott averages 26.9 points, 7 rebounds, and 1.6 assists per game. He has scored over 30 points in 3 straight games and moved up to fifth on the NCAA career scoring list with 3,078 points.  Forward Ethan Wragge averages 10.7 points and 4 rebounds, Guard Jahenna Manigat averages 7.3 points, 2.9 rebounds, 3 assists and 1.1 steals per game. Guard Devin Brooks average 6.9 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 2.8 assists per game. Guard Austin Chapman averages 7.8 points, 3.4 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game. Guard Grant Gibbs averages 7.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game. Will Artino and Avery Dingman also get minutes in the rotation. Guard Isaiah Zierden is out for the season with a knee injury.

Providence is 4-1 ATS after a straight up win, 6-2 overall, in Big East games, and in Saturday games, and 10-24 in neutral site games. Creighton is 9-3 ATS in neutral site games, and 11-4 after a cover.

Last week in Omaha, Doug McDermott torched the Friars for 45 points in the Bluejays 15 point win over Providence. McDermott, nicknamed Dougie McBuckets, has been on fire recently, and I think it continues tonight. I like Creighton to win by pulling away late.

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