No.23 UCLA vs Creighton Preview and Prediction
No.23 UCLA vs Creighton Preview
A battle of two undefeated teams square off in the first semifinal game of the 2017 CBE Hall of Fame Classic Monday night at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.
The winner will face the winner of Monday night’s second game between Wisconsin and Baylor.
Creighton brings an experienced squad, led by senior Marcus Foster, who played in Kansas City multiple times in his first two seasons as a member of the Big 12’s Kansas State. Foster is averaging 19.3 points per game on 60.6 percent field-goal shooting. He was a unanimous first-team all-Big East selection last season, when he scored 18.2 points per game.
The Bluejays attack isn’t just Foster however, Khyri Thomas (17.7 points per game) and Martin Krampelj (12.0) average in double-figures. Krampelj also is pulling down 8.7 rebounds per game.
Creighton (3-0) has been unfazed by opponents to start the season–they are averaging nearly 100 points per game (97.7) and are shooting the ball at an unbelievable success rate–55.4 percent from the field and nearly 44 percent from beyond the arc.
“We are who we are; we have our warts,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “We’re not a team that grabs rebounds at the top of the square. We lack a little length and athleticism at a few spots. But there is a bond, a togetherness about this team.”
Creighton is coming off of an impressive 92-88 victory over the 20th-ranked Northwestern Wildcats–a game we predicted they would win outright.
UCLA meanwhile has made headlines for all the wrong reasons. As most know, three UCLA ball players were arrested for shoplifting on their road trip to China–then Donald Trump got involved–then LaVar got involved–and needless to say, it’s a media circus.
On the court however, the Bruins have remained perfect, winning their first three ballgames–two close ones and one rout.
Without the three suspended players, UCLA has used just 10 players this season. Even though they’re new in the spotlight, the Bruins can still score. Kris Wilkes (17.3 points per game and 7.3 rebounds per game) leads UCLA in scoring and has drained 7-of-13 three-point shots. Holiday (14.3 points and 5.3 assists), Thomas Welsh (13.0 points and 11.3 rebounds) and Jaylen Hands (15.3 points) also average double figures in scoring.
“It’s just one of those things that you have to work through,” Welsh said about playing short-handed. “The guys that we have on the court are the guys we have on the court right now.”
Coach Steve Alford added, “We’re asking a lot, and we’ve got to do a good job in prep.”
The Bruins average 88.3 points per game while out-rebounding foes by 10.3 boards per contest. UCLA shoots 41.0 percent from 3-point range, but just 59.7 percent from the free-throw line.
Creighton leads the series with UCLA 2-1, though the teams have not met since 1963. McDermott is 3-3 in head-to-head matchups with Alford, with all of those taking place when Alford was at Iowa.
Something has to give between these two undefeated teams–and I think UCLA’s lack of depth will finally haunt them in this matchup. Creighton is too experienced to let this ‘big game’ get to them. The Bruins may have more talent, but the Bluejays play better team basketball and that will result in the victory.
Creighton 84 UCLA 78