In an interesting cross-sectional matchup, a tougher schedule could have the underdog Arizona State Sun Devils primed when they venture east to visit Creighton on Wednesday.
The underdogs from the Pac-12 could hold underdog value venturing east on Wednesday when those Arizona State Sun Devils (4-2, 3-3 ATS) pay a visit to the Creighton Bluejays (5-1, 3-2 ATS) from the Big East at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha, NE at 9:00 ET in a game televised nationally on CBS Sports Network.
The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Arizona State as a decided road underdog for this contest with the current line at +7 with odds of -102.
Sun Devils Toughened by Better Schedule
Creighton has surprised a lot of people by beginning this season at 5-1, but before getting overly excited, consider than the one loss came to the only team the Bluejays faced ranked in the Pomeroy Top 100, and the defeat came in blowout fashion 86-65 at Indiana. Meanwhile, three of the five wins have come over teams ranked 220th or worse.
Conversely Arizona State has faced three Pomeroy 100 teams and it has beaten two of them in NC State and Belmont while losing to the third one in overtime to Marquette in Brooklyn. The Sun Devils opened the season as upset losing NCAA Basketball picks at home to Sacramento State, but they have more than atoned for that since then with the four wins and one overtime loss vs. a tougher schedule so far than Creighton has faced.
ASU with Better Defense and Better Rebounding
This is not to say that Arizona State is a threat to win the Pac-12 or anything, as the latest odds still have the Sun Devils as 50-1 longshots to win their conference, but new coach Bobby Hurley appears to have his team on the right track after replacing Herb Sendek, who guided them to a disappointing 18-16 mark last year. The Sun Devils may not be a great shooting team, but they appear to have nice edges over the Bluejays in both defense and rebounding.
Arizona State is holding opponents to 69.2 points per game on 42.1 percent shooting while ranking 77th in the country in defensive efficiency. We understand that may not sound like much, but consider that Creighton is allowing 75.3 points per game on 45.4 percent shooting against a much easier schedule excluding Indiana, and the Bluejays are only 116th in defensive efficiency!
Sure, the Sun Devils are only shooting 42.6 percent offensively vs. 50.4 percent for the Bluejays, but besides the difference in the schedules, Arizona State can also make up that percentage difference with an edge in second-chance opportunities. That is because the Devils are 36th in the country in offensive rebounding percentage at 37.8 percent, blowing away the national average of 30.4 percent.
Third Year in Big East
Creighton is beginning its third season in the Big East, and after acquitting itself well in its inaugural season when Doug McDermott was still in college, the Bluejays slacked off to just 14-19 overall and an ugly 4-14 in conference play last season with “McBuckets” in the NBA and frankly expectations this season were not insanely high either, with Creighton beginning the year 85th on Pomeroy.
Sure, the Bluejays have now ascended to 54th but the fact that they lost their only tough game to this point is disconcerting. Also, besides the lax defense already mentioned, the Jays do not figure to manufacture buckets with second chances nearly as well as the Sun Devils, as Creighton is just 198th in offensive rebounding percentage while Arizona Stats is also a fine 28th in defensive rebounding percentage.
Therefore, the Bluejays will have to count on hitting a high percentage of their initial shot to even win this game, let along cover seven points. Yes, they have made a habit of doing just that while ranking 18th in the land in effective field goal percentage at 58.0 percent, but the Arizona State defense looks to be the best defense Creighton will have faced so far.
Overrated Home Court?
Finally, Creighton had a very strong home court advantage for many years, especially while the Bluejays played in the Missouri Valley Conference, but they may be starting to become overvalued at home now as they were just 10-8 straight up and 7-8 ATS in their lined games here last season and it is tough to gauge their two ATS home covers this year considering they came over Texas-San Antonio and Western Illinois.
This is a much more difficult matchup for Creighton, whose hot start seemingly has it overrated given this rather in inflated number, so take the points with the Arizona State Sun Devils when they visit Omaha on Wednesday.
NCAA Basketball Pick: Arizona State +7 (-102)