First place in the BIG EAST Conference is up for grabs when No. 20/19 Creighton (15-3, 5-1 BIG EAST) faces No. 6/6 Villanova (16-1, 5-0 BIG EAST) on Monday night. Tip-off at Wells Fargo Center (20,456) in Philadelphia, Pa., is set for 6:02 pm Central.
Creighton owns a 15-3 record, including wins over Nebraska, Arizona State, Saint Joseph’s, Cal, Marquette, Seton Hall, Xavier and Butler, in its first season in the BIG EAST. Creighton had won 10 straight games (nine by double-figures) prior to Saturday night’s 81-68 loss at Providence.
Five-time BIG EAST Player of the Week Doug McDermott (24.9 ppg., 7.2 rpg., 42.6 3FG%) is the nation’s only returning consensus First Team All-American, as well as the nation’s leading returning scorer. He’s led the Jays in scoring and rebounding each of the past three seasons, was named Preseason BIG EAST Player of the Year, and has scored 19 or more points in all but one game this year.
Austin Chatman (7.2 ppg., 3.9 rpg., 3.8 apg.) and Jahenns Manigat (8.0 ppg., 43.6 3FG%) help man the Bluejay backcourt and have combined for 126 assists against just 44 turnovers this year. Avery Dingman (3.2 ppg.) also sees time in the backcourt, starting the last three games after Grant Gibbs (6.1 ppg., 4.1 apg.) suffered a dislocated kneecap on Jan. 7 at DePaul that is expected to sideline him for a month.
Helping to replace Gregory Echenique at the “5” spot have been the duo of Ethan Wragge (11.7 ppg., 48.5 3FG%) and Will Artino (6.2 ppg., 64.4 FG%).
Creighton was picked to finish third in the 10-team BIG EAST Conference this winter after returning 11 lettermen and four starters from last year’s 28-8 team that reached the third round of the NCAA Tournament for a second consecutive season.
Villanova enters Monday night with a 16-1 record. Among VU’s best wins this year are triumphs over Kansas and Iowa, and the lone loss was a setback at unbeaten Syracuse on Dec. 28th.
The Wildcats are a balanced unit featuring five men scoring 9.7 points per game or more, headlined by JayVaughn Pinkston (15.6 ppg.) Also in double-digits are James Bell (13.9 ppg., 6.2 rpg.), Darrun Hilliard (13.7 ppg.) and Josh Hart (10.1 ppg.), while Ryan Arcidiacono (9.7 ppg.) isn’t far behind.
The Wildcats score 81.3 points per game and yield just 65.4 points per contest, and shoot 46.1 percent from the field, 35.0 percent from three-point land and 72.4 percent from downtown.