#8 Creighton Bluejays vs #9 Kansas State Wildcats
3/16, 6:50 EDT, TNT
Creighton Bluejays: 21-11, 10-8 in Big East
Player to Watch: Marcus Foster
There’s no doubt that Foster will be the main storyline in this game. Foster averages 20.3 points a game, and he’s going to be the best scorer on the court. However, the real drama comes from Foster’s previous seasons. Foster played his freshman and sophomore seasons with Kansas State before Coach Bruce Weber dismissed him from the team for undisclosed reasons. Foster has commented on this, saying that he has no problems with Weber and is only focused on winning. But due to human nature, revenge will play a factor for this talented guard.
X-Factor: Khyri Thomas
Thomas has been the Robin to Foster’s Batman this year, averaging 15.3 points on 42 percent shooting from the arc. He can heat up at any time against any team, as shown by his masterful 24 point performance on 9-13 shooting against top-ranked Villanova. Together, these two form one of the best backcourts in college basketball. He’s also a great perimeter defender, averaging 1.8 steals a game. Thomas will definitely be making his presence felt on both ends of the floor.
Kansas State Wildcats: 22-11, 10-8 in Big 12
Player to Watch: Dean Wade
Wade, a 6’10” junior forward, will be giving Creighton’s bigs all they can handle. He averages 16.5 points and 6.3 rebounds a game, and he can score from anywhere. Wade’s a 45% 3 point shooter, which is key for K-State’s floor spacing. He’s put up 20 point games throughout the season in the tough Big 12 conference. However, Wade will be playing banged up with a left foot injury that kept him sidelined against Kansas in the Big 12 Tournament. He’ll need to be at or near 100% for the Wildcats to win.
Despite the fact that Dean Wade and guard Barry Brown score almost half the team’s points, Kansas State is a very deep team. A whopping 10 players have played significant games and averaged at least 8 minutes while doing so. This deep bench will be key against a Creighton team that loves to push the tempo and tire teams out. I don’t expect it to be easy against such a deep Wildcats squad.
Key Stat: Creighton’s efficiency
Creighton is 11th in the nation in team field goal percentage at 49.7%. Their offense can score fast and score a lot, without many wasted possessions. Coach Sean McDermott is a masterful offensive mind, which is why I’m picking Creighton to win.
Matchup to watch: Creighton’s pace vs Kansas State’s depth
Creighton loves to push the tempo, a staple of McDermott’s offenses. His team is 10th in the nation in scoring at about 84 points a game. However, with 10 guys playing significant minutes with significant experience, it’ll be tough to outrun them.
Final Prediction – Creighton 88, Kansas State 84
I expect an absolute shootout in this one. Both teams are high flying on offense, and both play abysmal defense. Creighton allows 74.2 points a game, ranking 228th in the nation. However, I think the 1-2 punch of Foster and Thompson will prove to be too much for the Wildcats to handle. There’s no doubt this game will be a fun one to watch (if you hate defense).
By Kevin Herbst: first-time writer, long-time shot blocker
Photo: Omaha World Herald