Connecticut’s James Bouknight plays during an NCAA college basketball game against Villanova, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021, in Villanova, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
- The No. 2 seed Creighton Bluejays battle the No. 3 seed UConn Huskies in the Big East Tournament semifinals tonight (9:00 pm ET)
- Both teams enter the tilt coming off blowout victories in the quarterfinals
- Read below for odds, analysis, and best bet for this matchup
The No. 2 seed Creighton Bluejays (19-7, 14-6 Big East), who appear to have put the off-the-court controversy surrounding head coach Greg McDermott’s racially insensitive comments behind them, take on the No. 3 seed UConn Huskies (15-6, 11-6 Big East) in the Big East Tournament semifinals Friday, March 12 in New York City.
Tip is set for 9:00 pm ET at Madison Square Garden.
The Bluejays destroyed Butler 87-56 in the quarterfinals to get here, while the Huskies enjoyed an even larger margin of victory over DePaul in a 94-60 win at MSG Thursday.
Now, Creighton is the slightest of favorites to advance to the tourney title game over UConn.
UConn vs Creighton Odds
|UConn||+1 (-110)||-104||O 143.5 (-106)|
|Creighton||-1 (-110)||-112||U 143.5 (-116)|
Odds as of March 12 at FanDuel.
The winner will face the winner of Georgetown vs Seton Hall, which tips at 6:00 pm ET.
Home Away From Home
Storrs is a two-and-a-half hour drive away from Manhattan and the so-called “World’s Most Famous Arena” appears to suit UConn just fine. The Huskies made MSG feel like Gampel Pavilion once again on Thursday in a 34-point victory over the Blue Demons to open the 2021 Big East tourney in style.
Adama Sanogo, Tyrese Martin, and RJ Cole each had 14 points for UConn, while James Bouknight added 10 to go with five assists in a rousing effort against an overmatched opponent,
UConn head coach Dan Hurley said before the game that defense and rebounding would have to be paramount in the team’s mentality against DePaul. Mission accomplished in Thursday’s performance. The Dawgs held the Demons to 36.8% shooting from the field and outrebounded them 42-27. UConn also exploited one of DePaul’s biggest weaknesses — ball security. The Blue Demons had averaged a Big East-worst 15.8 turnovers per game entering Thursday’s contest — and they turned the ball over 15 times at the Garden.
— UConn Men’s Basketball (@UConnMBB) March 12, 2021
I speculated UConn could make a run this week in my Big East Tournament preview, and I stand by my prediction.
With interim coach Alan Huss one the sideline in Creighton’s regular-season finale last Saturday, the Bluejays dominated Butler at home 93-73. With McDermott reinstated following his poor choice of words, Creighton destroyed the Bulldogs by 31 Thursday in the postseason.
Marcus Zegarowski led the way for Creighton with 18 points, five assists with three steals, while Damien Jefferson added 14. Caleb Bishop had 10 to cap off the trio of double-digit scorers for the No. 10 overall team in college basketball, as rated by KenPom. The lofty efficiency mark matches the highest position the program has been all season. And that is significant considering the turbulent week-plus the program has gone through.
Creighton coach Greg McDermott addressed his “terrible mistake” in a pregame interview with the FS1 crew pic.twitter.com/5UslPNiSZR
— Jon Nyatawa (@JonNyatawa) March 11, 2021
Teams can either crumble or rally in the face of adversity. It sure seems like the Bluejays are hunkering down, shutting out the noise and playing some of the best basketball they have all season. Now, the question is: can they do it against a team other than Butler?
Creighton took both regular season matchups against UConn this year. The Bluejays got past the Huskies on the road 76-74 in overtime back on Dec. 20, then handled Hurley’s group in Omaha 74-66 on Jan. 23. A huge factor in that first game was Bouknight. The sophomore All-Big East First-Team selection poured in a career-high 40 points in the narrow defeat.
Bouknight then missed the January game while nursing his elbow injury that kept him out for five weeks. If he had played in 75% of UConn’s games (he played in only 62%), the 6-foot-5 guard would have finished second only to St. John’s Julian Champagnie in conference scoring with his 19.4 points per game (Champagnie averaged 19.9 per outing).
UConn’s leading scorer’s status is uncertain Friday. He had to be carried to the locker room in the second half with what was later described as cramps and was put on an IV. Hurley left it up to the team’s training staff to prepare Bouknight for Creighton. If he’s able to play, he’s a difference maker.
— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) March 12, 2021
Martin spoke of UConn’s sky-high confidence after the DePaul win, which was the program’s largest-ever margin-of-victory in a tournament game. Creighton has played well of late as well, but UConn is one of the hottest teams in the country. I’m sticking with my pre-tourney pick and rolling with the Huskies in this spot.
The pick: UConn +1 (-110)
Blair Johnson is a veteran journalist and seasoned sports content creator. He has been writing and producing content as long as he can remember, with such familiar names as CNN, NFL Media and Yahoo. Blair currently lives and works in the greater Los Angeles area.