Villanova had no answer for Naismith front-runner Doug McDermott, who scored 39. (John S. Peterson/Icon SMI)
For No. 6 Villanova coach Jay Wright’s sake, let’s hope the Wildcats don’t face No. 18 Creighton in the Big East Tournament. On January 20, Creighton shot 57 percent from the field and scored 1.45 points per possession in a 28-point rout of Villanova at the Wells Fargo Center. The Bluejays connected on a Big East-record 21 three-point shots. #WraggeBombs were falling en masse. It was one of the most impressive displays of offensive firepower any team has produced in recent memory. Surely, Creighton would never duplicate it – much less against the same team.
The Jays almost did on Sunday.
In the return meeting with the Wildcats at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Creighton scored 1.46 points per possession, shot 60 percent from three-point range and won 101-80. The 1.45- and 1.46-PPP onslaughts Creighton rained on Villanova are the only two times the Wildcats have yielded more than 1.30 PPP in the last three seasons, according ESPN Stats & Information.This is the first time Creighton has beaten two top-10 teams in the same season (the Bluejays beat Villanova twice).
"It's like broken record," Wright said afterward. "They're great. I love their team. I love how they play. They got smart, experienced players, they're extremely well-coached, they got the best player in the country and he makes everybody better around him -- they're just an outstanding team."
Whereas Wragge shone brightest the last time these two teams met, McDermott owned the spotlight Sunday. He scored 39 points on 13-of-17 shooting, went 4-of-6 from beyond the arc and a perfect 9-of-9 from the free throw line. McDermott also passed Larry Bird for 13th place on the NCAA Division I scoring list and threw down a pretty nice dunk early in the second half.
There’s something about playing Villanova that pushes Creighton’s super efficient offense – not that it needs help, ranking second in the country in points per possession and first in three-point and effective field goal percentage – into overdrive. The Bluejays are a lethal offensive team, but they don’t bombard every opponent they face in this fashion. Nor does Villanova typically surrender anywhere near this many points; the Wildcats rank 26th in the country in defensive efficiency.
Maybe it’s the hype and intensity of a matchup between the clear-cut top-two teams in the Big East. Maybe Creighton just happened to catch fire twice against the same team, and it won’t happen again this season. Or maybe Villanova just has bad luck. It’s probably best to not put too much thought into it. When Creighton’s offense is firing on all cylinders, and its two-time All-American is in the zone, don’t ask questions. Just appreciate. And hope -- if you're a Wildcats fan, player or coach -- Villanova doesn’t have to relive it a month from now at Madison Square garden. That would be cruel.