Creighton Bluejays vs. Providence Friars Pick & Prediction MARCH 14th 2024

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NEW YORK — Eighth-ranked Creighton is ready to make its entrance at Madison Square Garden after a Big East tournament opening-round bye.

The Bluejays (23-8), the tournament’s second seed, will take on seventh-seeded Providence (20-12) in Thursday night’s quarterfinals.

Creighton closed the regular season by winning three games in a row and seven of eight, a stretch that included a 19-point win over defending national champion UConn on Feb. 20.

Creighton has reached at least the Big East tournament semifinals in each of the past three years, including a finals appearance in 2022. The Bluejays have made the championship game four times since joining the Big East in 2013 but hope to capture their first tournament title.

“Madison Square Garden is the best arena in the country and the world, in my opinion,” Creighton guard Trey Alexander said. “Kids dream of playing in that type of arena, with that atmosphere, and I think the Big East Conference this year is the best in the country. … For those teams that are kind of in the bubble area, that gives them that win-or-go-home type of mentality and it makes the stakes even higher for everybody.”

Creighton is headlined by first-team All-Big East selection Baylor Scheierman, who leads the Bluejays with 18.5 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. Alexander was given All-Big East second-team honors, while 7-foot-1 center Ryan Kalkbrenner earned Big East defensive player of the year honors for the third straight season.

Kalkbrenner joins former Georgetown greats Patrick Ewing and Alonzo Mourning as the only players to win the defensive honors three times in a row.

The Bluejays average 80.8 points per game while holding opponents to 69.5. They average 49.0 percent shooting from the floor, 77.5 percent at the line, and 36.5 percent from 3-point range. Their average of 10.7 3-pointers per game rank sixth in the nation.

The teams split the regular-season series. Creighton won at home, 69-60, on Jan. 6, and host Providence won the Feb. 7 rematch in overtime, 91-87.

Providence is an NCAA Tournament bubble team hoping to bolster its resume with a deep run in New York.

Big East Player of the Year Devin Carter and All-Big East honorable-mention forward Josh Oduro led the Friars to a 74-56 victory over 10th-seeded Georgetown in Wednesday’s opening round.

Oduro had 20 points while Carter had 19, and each had nine rebounds. Davonte “Ticket” Gaines added 15 points, including four 3-pointers, and seven boards in the win.

Carter won the conference scoring championship, averaging 21.4 points in 20 league games. He leads the Friars with 19.4 points in all games, and also tops the team with 8.6 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.7 steals.

“He plays to win,” Providence coach Kim English said, per The Providence Journal. “His competitiveness is probably his best trait, along with a ton of skill. It says he’s focusing on the right thing.”

But English also had praise for the Bluejays.

“(Creighton), UConn and Marquette are the smartest teams in our league,” he said. “Their players are like coaches, just play the right way, never make mistakes and don’t beat themselves. We’re going to have to have a very mature and great effort (Thursday) night.”

–Eugene Rapay, Field Level Media

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