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NY Post
New York Post
6 Jan 2024

NextImg:Providence vs. Creighton prediction: College basketball odds, pick, best bet for Big East battle

Providence basketball is in a tough spot. 

Bryce Hopkins tore his ACL in Wednesday night’s loss to Seton Hall, and the Friars are now without their best player — an All-Big East caliber forward — for the remainder of the season. 

It’ll be hard to rebound from that monumental loss for a conference road game against the elite Creighton Bluejays. 

That said, I think the Friars’ defense matches up well with the Bluejays’ continuity offense, so I don’t expect much scoring from either team on Saturday. 

Providence is primarily a post and isolation offense, although the Friars will use off-ball screens to pop open sharpshooter Devin Carter from deep. 

Under normal circumstances, Hopkins and Co. could expose Creighton’s relatively weak isolation defense.

Creighton runs a drop-coverage defensive scheme that is vulnerable against elite isolation shot creators. 

But Hopkins is Providence’s best isolation creator. Without him, things look grim.

In drop coverage, perimeter defenders overplay ball-handlers above the break and on the wings, funneling them toward a “dropping” rim protector – in this case, the dominant 7-foot-2 Ryan Kalkbrenner. 

Creighton ranks eighth nationally in 3-point rate allowed, with a measly 28% of opponents’ shots coming from deep.

Similarly, the Bluejays rank well above average in post-up PPP allowed (.76, 72nd percentile) and paint points per game allowed (28, 79th percentile). 

Without Hopkins, the Friars will try to funnel the offense through Carter on the perimeter and Josh Oduro in the post, but that won’t work against the drop. 

Creighton’s defense should hold up in a solid schematic matchup, but I don’t love how its offense matches up with Providence’s defense. 

Greg McDermott runs a continuity offense, utilizing off-ball screen and handoff sets on the perimeter to pop open elite shotmakers like Baylor Schierman, Trey Alexander and Steven Ashworth. 

The Jays rely heavily on Kalkbrenner’s interior scoring to collapse defensive spacing and open the perimeter. He’s an elite interior scorer, so the game plan usually works out – Creighton ranks 20th in offensive efficiency for a reason. 

But Oduro is an elite interior defender. He’s allowing only .50 PPP on post-up sets, ranking in the 92nd percentile of D-I defenders, which spearheads a defense that ranks third nationally in 2-point shooting allowed (41%) and fifth in defensive efficiency (91.5). 

With Oduro holding down the paint, Providence can play more aggressively on the perimeter. Kim English runs a one-through-five switch on defense, leveraging his athletic defenders by switching everything and forcing offenses into isolation sets. 

Even without Hopkins, the Friars have the defenders to switch relentlessly and neutralize Creighton’s perimeter actions. Providence ranks top-25 nationally in 3-point rate allowed (30%) for a reason.

English will let Oduro handle Kalkbrenner and pressure the Creighton ball-handlers, throwing the Jays’ continuity offense off-balance. 

And if Creighton gets sucked into iso ball, the Bluejays don’t have the shot creators to exploit one-on-one matchups. Sure, Schierman is developing into a go-to guy. But as a whole, the Bluejays are scoring a meager .61 isolation PPP, ranking 306th nationally. 

Ultimately, I expect a rock fight between these two on Saturday, so I’m happy betting the Under. 

For what it’s worth, three of the past five meetings between these two have stayed Under the closing total, including the past two in Omaha. Even with Hopkins, the Friars only scored 67 last year at Creighton. 

Under 137