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NCAA Tournament — It’ll Be a Grind as Creighton Meets San Diego State

2022 Men'S Ncaa Tournament

The 2022 NCAA Tournament Will Have Defense on Display in This one

By Charles Jay

If defense truly wins championships, then the San Diego State Aztecs and Creighton Bluejays might have an inside track on doing very well in the NCAA Tournament. Or at least the winner will. These teams will battle it out in the first round of the tourney at 7:27 PM ET on Thursday night at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth.

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NCAA Tournament — How Creighton got here

The Bluejays (22-11), who compete in the Big East, have beaten the likes of Villanova and UConn, and they have often “won ugly.” When they played ‘Nova in the conference tournament, they lost 54-48 and shot a horrendous 3-of-29 from three-point territory.

This has to be an embarrassment for coach Greg McDermott, who had a superb shooting team when his son Doug was there. But the flipside here is that they bring one of the better defensive teams in the country to the field of battle, ranking 17th nationally in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency.

One of the big reasons for that is 7-1 center Ryan Kalkbrenner, who commands the lane, blocking 2.7 shots per contest.

NCAA Tournament — How San Diego State got here

The Aztecs had a 23-8 record under Brian Dutcher, losing to Boise State in the Mountain West tournament and getting an at-large bid to the NCAA’s.

And they are even more maniacal about defense than Creighton is. SDSU has surrendered just 57.7 points per game, second best in the country, and have allowed opponents to shoot just 38.4%.


NCAA Tournament — Here are the numbers…..

At BetAnySports, the Aztecs are currently listed as the slight favorite:

San Diego State Aztecs -2
Creighton Bluejays +2

Over 121 Points -110
Under 121 Points -110

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NCAA Tournament — SDSU’s scoring dilemma

One of the difficulties for San Diego State is that they don’t spread the scoring around that much. In fact, Matt Bradley, the 6-4 guard who came over from Cal, is the only player who is averaging in double figures.

This would present a potential problem under any set of circumstances. But when facing a capable defensive team that can afford to “cheat” a little to the outside because of a capable shot-blocker, that might just be a winning combination. Kalkbrenner’s presence is enough to keep Creighton in the top ten against two-point shooting, and Bradley is someone the Aztecs will certainly look to for some long-range bombing, as he is hitting better than 41% from beyond the arc.


NCAA Tournament — Creighton’s scoring dilemma

To begin with, the Bluejays are without their point guard. Freshman point guard Ryan Nembhard, whose brother plays for Gonzaga, averaged 11.3 points and 4.4 assists before suffering a season-ending wrist injury in February.

And this team shot just 30.7% from beyond the arc this season, which didn’t even crack the top 300 nationally.

NCAA Tournament — What’s our verdict?

Well, it is most certainly going to be a chore for either of these teams to score close to the basket. Both Creighton and SDSU are ranked in the top ten in the country defending from two-point territory. Creighton,in particular, has made an art out of defending without fouling, so the Aztecs will have their work cut out for them.

But look – San Diego State’s average possession length on offense ranks 357th out of 358 D-I teams. So it could be like sludge out there. In three Mountain West tournament games, SDSU’s games totaled only 325 points.

You could do a lot worse things than to go with the UNDER in this one.

 
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