#8 Creighton Bluejays vs. #1 North Carolina Tarheels
This game creates a fascinating matchup between two former high school teammates; North Carolina’s celebrated and future lottery-pick Harrison Barnes and Creighton’s Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year Doug McDermott. McDermott went largely unrecruited by BCS conference “majors” perhaps in large part to playing in Barnes’ shadow for most of his career, but I can assure you the Bluejays are thrilled to have him, and that every “major” program would happily accept his transfer request!
However, the difference in this one is that Barnes has a stable of fellow NBA’ers to help him out and McDermott is carrying the lion’s share of the offensive responsibilities for his team. Echinique, the MVC Defensive Player of the Year, is a capable and talented big man, however, asking him to contain John Henson, Tyler Zeller, and even James Michael McAdoo is asking more than any one single player can hope to achieve. Carolina’s depth (McAdoo, a projected first-round draft pick comes of the BENCH) is going to be way too much for the thin Bluejays to handle.
When analyzing season statistics, especially in NCAA Tournament games, it is important to always take the numbers with a grain of skepticism. For example, does Creighton’s offensive efficiency and defensive field goal percentages really tell us the same thing as Carolina’s, even though the numbers are similar? Of course not. Creighton racked up numbers against Indiana State and Southern Illinois. Carolina’s gauntlet included Duke, Florida State, Kentucky and Michigan State. It’s a completely different sample we are obtaining data from.
That said – Carolina STILL hold the statistical advantage in nearly every single category; offensive efficiency, point differential per game, field goal percentage, assists to turnovers; nearly all of them. The reason? Carolina is significantly better than Creighton. Far more than eight points better than Creighton. I expect this game to play out very similarly to last night’s Kentucky – Iowa State matchup, entertaining for a half or so, but a few explosive runs from Carolina widen the margin and put the Tarheels into cruise-control mode. Kendall Marshall will find plenty of slam dunk opportunities against the smaller, less-deep and less-quick Creighton lineup. Expect Zeller and also Bullock and McAdoo to get double-digit scoring totals, using their athleticism to get easy second chance and put back buckets as the ‘Jays expend all their effort and energy trying to corral Barnes, Zeller and Henson.
The tough thing about playing Carolina is that no one in the country except Kentucky and maybe Ohio State has the personnel to cover every explosive scorer the Tarheels offer. Something has to give. And today, I think it is Creighton’s pleasant season and run in the tourney. Gimme the Heels big.