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Players to watch, three keys to victory for Creighton vs. No. 23 Providence
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Players to watch, three keys to victory for Creighton vs. No. 23 Providence

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Greg McDermott sideline

Coach Greg McDermott instructs the CU players from the sideline during a home game earlier this season. The Jays will be back inside the CHI Health Center Tuesday for a matchup against No. 23 Providence.

Jon Nyatawa discusses how the Jays will have to rebound quickly after a tough weekend.

Editor's note: This game has been postponed due to COVID issues in the Providence program. Click here to read more.

* * *

The Jays (10-4, 2-1) return to action for the first time since their blowout loss at Villanova last week. Have they made the necessary adjustments? If not, they'll find out in a hurry Tuesday. First-place Providence is coming to town. Here's a preview:

When: 8 p.m. Tuesday

Where: CHI Health Center

TV: FS1

Radio: 1620 AM KOZN, 101.9 FM KOOO

Online: Fox Sports

Providence info

2021-22 record: 14-2, 4-1 (T-first in Big East)

NET ranking: 35th (CU: 64th)

Offensive efficiency (KenPom): 66th (CU: 55th)

Defensive efficiency (KenPom): 50th (CU: 72nd)

Trending: The question for Providence going into the season centered around the departure of David Duke, who was the key figure in the Friars' offensive attack. How would they replace him? They've done it with balance. A well-connected, veteran group has collaborated effectively so far. Providence has wins over Wisconsin, Texas Tech, UConn and Seton Hall. The Friars might even still be a bit underrated.

Last meeting vs. CU: Providence won 74-70 last season in Omaha (the Friars lead the all-time series 17-12)

Three PC players to watch

Senior guard Al Durham (#1) — The former Indiana guard transferred in and has been a perfect fit for Providence's system. He's a tough-minded, savvy vet you can reliably turn to at the end of the shot clock or in crunch time. The big thing defending him: You cannot foul. Durham has made more free throws (90) than all but one player in Division I.

Junior guard Jared Bynum (#4) — His stats may not be overly flashy (8.8 points, 3.7 assists and 1.1 steals per game), but he's played his best ball lately. He's the Friars' best one-on-one creator. Just really quick with the dribble. And he has great vision.

Senior center Nate Watson (#43) — The best big man in the Big East. Providence plays through him so opponents have to build their defensive game plan around him. That opens the floor for everyone else. And still, Watson gets his. He leads the team at 14.1 points per game. He's so strong. If he gets deep position, you're done.

Injury update: Senior guard A.J. Reeves (10.7 points per game) has missed the last two contests with a finger injury. Reportedly, he's likely out Tuesday.

Three keys for Creighton

1. Be strong with the ball: The stats suggest Providence doesn't force a lot of turnovers. Just 11.1 per game, which ranks last in the league. But you can bet the Friars will try to be more aggressive Tuesday. At the very least, they'll try to use their physicality to impose their will and disrupt the CU attack. Like Villanova did. Iowa State and Arizona State too. Creighton better be ready for that.

2. Seal off the paint: Providence is going to work the ball inside. That's what the Friars do. But how close to the rim do they get? That's the key for Creighton. Shutting off driving lanes to Durham and Bynum. Keeping Watson and Ed Croswell from backing their way to the hoop. Providence is coming off a game where it got 46 points in the paint and 26 points at the free-throw line. CU can't allow that.

3. Bring the toughness: The Friars surely watched the game film from Creighton's blowout loss to Villanova. And they have the capability to replicate that blueprint. They don't mind a slugfest. They prefer it, actually. So the Jays are going to have to embrace this test of wills. Every loose ball, every rebound, every screen, every basket cut, every pass. Nothing will be easy.

Predictions

ESPN’s BPI: Providence's win probability is 52.3%

KenPom: Creighton wins, 69-67

Jon Nyatawa’s take: Maybe Creighton's catching Providence at the right time. The Friars weren't as efficient last week (missing Reeves didn't help). It'll be interesting to see how much the Jays learned about want-to and urgency after facing a motivated Villanova team. That refuse-to-lose mentality. So much of conference play comes down to that. I'll pick CU to win a close one, 76-70. 

Creighton betting trends

Season ATS record: 6-8 (last five games: 3-2)

Season ATS record at home: 2-5

Season SU record as the favorite: 6-2

Over/under: The under has hit in 10 of CU's 14 games this season


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