This is the way it should be, the league’s top two teams tangling in the last game of the regular season with a championship on the line.
No. 8 Seton Hall already has clinched a share of the Big East title. No. 11 Creighton has never won a conference championship since joining the Big East, but that can change when the Pirates and host Bluejays tangle Saturday in Omaha, Neb.
Both teams need to have short memories because they have experienced what could have been devastating losses in the past week.
The Pirates (21-8, 13-4) had a chance to claim the outright title on Wednesday, but they lost to Villanova 79-77, setting the stage for Saturday’s showdown.
The Bluejays (23-7, 12-5) stayed in the hunt by beating Georgetown 91-76 in one of Creighton’s best offensive displays of the season — and that’s saying a lot considering their loss on Sunday to St. John’s.
Against the Red Storm, the Bluejays made just 4 of 27 3-point attempts. In Wednesday’s win over the Hoyas, they made a season-high 17.
“It’s always next shot, next play,” Marcus Zegarowski, who went 4-for-6 on 3-pointers for Creighton, told the Omaha World Herald. “It’s a whole group thing.”
Mitch Ballock, who made 6 of 13 attempts from beyond the arc, explained the difference between the last two Creighton games.
“We’re at our best when we’re just having fun,” Ballock said. “When we’re tense and tight, then we start to do things uncharacteristic. But when we’re loose and just having fun, it’s a thing of beauty.”
Not to be outdone, Ty-Shon Alexander, one of five finalists for the Jerry West Shooting Guard of the Year Award, went 4 of 8 from 3-point range.
Alexander will be going up against another Jerry West award finalist in Myles Powell.
On an emotional Senior Night, Powell struggled in the Pirates’ loss to Villanova. He scored only 14 points on 5-for-18 shooting.
He’s confident he and his teammates will bounce back on Saturday.
“I feel like we play better when our back’s against the wall anyway,” he told NJ.com.
There’s no doubt in head coach Kevin Willard’s mind that the Pirates will be ready for the Bluejays, and set to make a postseason run.
“I love this basketball team. I love their heart, I love how much it means to them. I love the fact that they’re all hurting right now,” Willard said. “We still got a game left, and we got the Big East tournament, we got the NCAA Tournament. We’re going to have the best seed that we’ve ever had. I got very high expectations for this basketball team.”
Powell and the Pirates have a little extra motivation heading into Omaha. Creighton defeated Seton Hall 87-82 back on Feb. 12. Powell went 3-for-16, including 1-for-11 from 3-point range, and had 12 points.
Seton Hall and Creighton match up pretty evenly. The Bluejays average 78.4 points per game and give up 70.1 per game. The Pirates are scoring at a clip of 75.2 points and allowing 67.6 per game.
Creighton does have one sizable advantage — the Bluejays are 16-1 at home this season.
–Field Level Media