Preview & Prediction: By Evan Dorey
Today, I’ll look at a fascinating mid-major encounter, as #9 Dayton (7-0) travels to Nebraska to face #59 Creighton (5-2).
Creighton was picked as the clear preseason MVC media favorite, but have had a somewhat disappointing start so far, losing a pair of tight road games to Arkansas Little Rock and Nebraska. Their other games have been fairly easy wins, though, including a double-digit win at St. Joe’s over the weekend. Dayton is still undefeated, though only barely so after surviving a an 0-24 from three showing against Auburn and needing a strong finish to win a road trip to Akron on Saturday. The Flyers also have by far the biggest win of the two teams, beating up on Marquette for a double-digit win in the Chicago Classic.
The Flyers have had a very inconsistent offense early in the season, as they lit up Marquette, but have two of the worst three point shooting performances of any team, with the 0-24 combined with a 1-16 against Akron. When the long-distance shot is going in at a decent clip, Dayton is solid offensively, getting a good number of their misses and avoiding turnovers. When the shots aren’t dropping, the offense becomes a major trouble spot. Creighton’s strong perimeter defense, among the national leaders in forcing turnovers and in defending the three point line, could cause a lot of trouble for the Flyers, and could very well result in another of those poor shooting nights.
Dayton has won games with their defense, and specifically with stopping shots, as they have held their opponents under 40 in effective FG%. They’ve been effective inside and outside, and force a good number of turnovers as well. Opponents have typically taken a lot of threes against Dayton, and the Bluejays look to be no exception, as their offense is mostly based on perimeter play. They are good shooters from three and from the line, but aren’t very strong inside, getting a lot of shots blocked and getting few offensive boards. One key is their ability to get to the line, which can earn them a good number of points.
Creighton has already had three MVC Players of the Week so far this season, guards P'Allen Stinnett, Cavel Witter and Booker Woodfox, the most recent week’s winner. Stinnett has cooled off since his hot start, and his shooting percentages have gone south, while Woodfox has been hitting threes at a better rate than twos so far this season, at a 51% clip from outside. The Bluejays only start a single big man, in 6-9 Kenny Lawson, who leads the team in rebounding and leads the MVC in blocks, and is a decent scorer inside. Witter, along with Kaleb Korver, are solid three-point shooting options who have both come off the bench and started at times this season. There are a lot of other potential contributors, as 11 Bluejays average double digit minutes.
Forward Chris Wright is the Flyers’ leading scorer, rebounder and shot blocker, and the Flyers have a 21-2 record when he has played over the past two seasons. Wright is a fairly consistent shooter, but his rebounding has not been consistent, as he has had just 5 in his last two games combined, but three consecutive double-doubles before that. The main outside scoring option is Marcus Johnson, probably the teams best three-point shooter, but that isn’t necessarily saying much. Charles Little is another inside scoring option, and helps out on the glass as well, averaging 8-and-5. Junior guard London Warren leads Dayton in assists, but, oddly for a 6-0 player, takes very few threes, having not yet attempted one this season. His role is ball control and distribution, and he does it fairly well. 6-10 Kurt Huelsman shouldn’t be counted on offensively, but provides a big body inside to help out with rebounding and interior defense. Like Creighton, Dayton also has 11 players that average double digits in minutes, so it’s likely at least one lesser known name will step up to have an impact.
Despite the nice record, and the Marquette win, I’m not that convinced by Dayton’s record, as their offense has been frightening at times. While they definitely have the defense to make up for it, Creighton has a pretty solid defensive unit as well, and I think the Bluejays will be able to score enough to hold of the Flyers in a very tight encounter.
Winner: Creighton Margin: 1-5
-- Evan Dorey's game previews & rankings are based on Elo Ratings. Elo Ratings are fairly simple, all teams are assigned an initial number of points, which is the same for all teams, eliminating preseason bias. Then, as the season progresses, when a team wins it gains points, and when it loses it drops points. The amount of points that are gained or lost depend on the level of the opponent (beating a cupcake gets you little, beating #1 will be a big increase), the scoring margin of the game (which is capped), and the game’s location. To take a look at Evan's College Basketball Elo Ratings, visit his website or blog where he discusses the rankings along with other statistical observations about big games and interesting teams.