The undefeated UConn Huskies will host the ninth-ranked Creighton Bluejays on Sunday at noon. According to the ESPN matchup predictor, Creighton has a 57.3% chance to beat the Huskies on the road. UConn still hasn’t been beaten in 2020, but they’ll be the underdogs on Sunday inside Gampel Pavilion. Here is my Creighton vs UConn preview.
UConn has the ability to win this game, but they’ll need three things to happen in order to advance to 4-0 on the season.
1 | Contain Mitch Ballock
When you look at the Creighton stat sheet, Mitch Ballock doesn’t jump off as the star for the Bluejays. He isn’t the best player in the starting five, but the senior makes big plays happen. He had one phenomenal scoring performance against Marquette two games ago where he dropped 26 points on the night.
Marquette knocked off the Bluejays, but Ballock was the sole bright spot for the team in the loss. Even when Ballock isn’t scoring points, he is still creating opportunities for his team. Ballock epitomizes the grinder mentality. At 6’5” he is a do-all player that isn’t afraid to mix it up in the paint.
Ballock is shooting 46% from the field so when he is taking shots, he doesn’t usually miss. The Huskies defense will need to get in his face and not give him open opportunities. If UConn can make this happen in the backcourt, they’ll put themselves in a position to upset Creighton.
UConn’s best opponent thus far was Southern California (4-1). The Huskies haven’t lost, but they have been weak when it comes to their perimeter defense. Ballock will capitalize on open opportunities from three-point land so Dan Hurley will need to emphasize effort to his team.
2 | Big Day from James Bouknight
James Bouknight is Connecticut’s best player. The 6’5” sophomore guard will need to be outstanding for UConn to take down the Bluejays. If Bouknight is off his game, it throws off the entire UConn team.
Bouknight is averaging 32.3 minutes per game. I expect this to be higher against Creighton because he is the five-tool player for the Huskies. Bouknight is shooting 45% from the field and averaging 18.7 points per game. He leads the team in this statistic. Since Bouknight directs traffic on the court, it often forces him to try to do too much with the basketball.
Bouknight does have a tendency to turn over the basketball which will need to be limited on Sunday for his team to have a chance. UConn will need a big scoring effort from the sophomore, but #2 will also need to get his teammates involved.
It will take the entire Connecticut program to beat Creighton. However, if Bouknight doesn’t show up UConn will have a much tougher time finding a way to take this conference game on Sunday.
3 | Need to Win the Battle in the Paint
Dan Hurley has emphasized toughness within the UConn locker room since he took over the head coaching role in March of 2018. In the paint, UConn has been outstanding. In their most recent win against Southern California, UConn outrebounded the Trojans 42-31.
Creighton has been tested this season much more than Connecticut. However, I believe that UConn has the advantage in the paint. Creighton is averaging 35.7 rebounds per game. UConn is grabbing 42 boards per contest.
The matchup to watch in this area will be Creighton’s Christian Bishop vs UConn’s Isaiah Whaley. The two forwards should see a lot of each other throughout the afternoon. Bishop and Whaley both have the ability to crash the boards so I can’t wait to see this duel between the two big men.
Second chance opportunities will make a significant difference on Sunday. If UConn can steal a few rebounds on the offensive end and not give Creighton second chance opportunities in the backcourt, they will be competitive.
Creighton vs UConn – Final Thoughts
If UConn is able to make all three of these things happen, they will pull off a big home win on Sunday. If not, Creighton will hand UConn their first loss of the season. Either way, I believe that this game will come down to the final five minutes of action. This is where these two powerhouse programs will determine who comes out victorious inside Gampel Pavilion.
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