WICHITA STATE (21-4, 12-2 MWC) AT NO. 15 CREIGHTON (21-4, 11-3 MWC)
Time: 5 p.m. (4 p.m. CT)
Location: CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Neb.
Wichita State 20 (No. 1 MVC)
Creighton 24 (No. 2 MVC)
Line: Creighton -1 (147.5 o/u)
Wichita State Players to Watch: C Garrett Stutz, 7-0 Sr. (14.3 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 57.5% FG); G Joe Ragland, 6-0 Sr. (12.8 ppg, 3.4 apg, 47.1% 3s); G Toure’ Murry, 6-5 Sr. (12.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 3.1 apg). Ragland hit 7-of-9 shots and led Wichita State with 19 points as the Shockers shot 55.9 percent from the floor in Wednesday’s 82-57 win over Northern Iowa. Ragland, who made five of his seven 3-point attempts, also had three rebounds and three assists.
Creighton Players to Watch: F Doug McDermott, 6-7 So. (23.3 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 61.6% FG); C Gregory Echenique, 6-9 Jr. (9.5 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 59.2% FG); G Jahenns Mangiat, 6-1 So. (6.8 ppg, 1.5 apg, 48.4% 3s). McDermott is third in the nation in scoring and ranks first or second in five different MVC categories, including 3-point percentage, field goal percentage, rebounding and double-doubles.
Storylines: The No. 15 Blue Jays have dropped back-to-back games for the first time this season, falling at Northern Iowa on Saturday, 65-62, and at Evansville on Tuesday, 65-57. The losses put Creighton a game behind the league-leading Shockers, who have won three straight and 11 of 12 overall. With Illinois State and Missouri State tied in third place at 8-6, the regular-season MVC title will come down to Creighton and Wichita State.
Key Stats: Creighton beat the Shockers 68-61 on New Year’s Eve, avenging last year’s Wichita State sweep over the Blue Jays. In the win, Creighton hit 8-of-15 3s and got 19 points from Antoine Young. The Shockers have five players who average at least 8.8 points per game and they out-rebound opponents by 6.3 boards per contest, which is best in the Missouri Valley. Creighton is the MVC’s leading scoring team at 80 points per game. The Blue Jays also have league-best 50.8 shooting and 43.6 3-point percentages. Wichita State holds its opponents to 30.3 percent from behind the arc. Creighton is 12-1 at home this season. Its only loss at CenturyLink Center came in its MVC-opener to Missouri State, 77-65. The Shockers are 7-1 on the road, falling at Drake in triple-overtime, 93-86 on Jan. 28. Creighton leads the all-time series 53-43 and is 29-15 all-time in Omaha, including a 17-1 mark since 1993.
The Bottom Line: The way the two teams are playing, it would be tempting to pick Wichita State in an upset, but after losing two straight, the Blue Jays should come out hitting on all cylinders in this crucial MVC contest.
The Pick: Creighton 83, Wichita State 67