MBB Preview: CBI Final, Oregon Ducks vs. Creighton Blue Jays

CBI Finals (best of 3)

Oregon vs. Creighton

Monday, March 28 :: Qwest Center :: Omaha, Nebraska :: 5:00 PT

Wednesday, March 30 :: Matthew Knight Arena :: 7:00 PT

Friday, April 1 (if necessary) :: Matthew Knight Arena :: 7:00 PT

The CBI gets its dream finals matchup, as Dana Altman takes his new team to Omaha to face his old team.  While one figures that this should be an emotionally taxing series for Coach as he takes on a group of players that were largely his recruits, it should prove to be quite the basketball challenge as well.  While Oregon's road to the CBI finals has been somewhat thrilling, pulling out close wins over Duquesne and Boise State, Creighton's road here has been cake, with three double digit wins over San Jose State, Davidson, and UCF.

Creighton's best player is freshman forward Doug McDermott, a 6-7 freshman post who goes for 15 points and 7.5 rebounds a game.  He will be an extremely tough matchup for Oregon as he has the ability to play both back to the basket inside, but also step out and shoot the three at a 40% clip.  The Ducks will have to account for him on every possession.  This is a team that will want to slow up a bit and keep the game in the low 60s.  They will run the offense through the posts, and at 6-9, 6-9, 6-7, they will have a height advantage over the Oregon front line.  In addition to McDermott, their other posts, go for 9.3 and 10.3 ppg, respectively, and both notch 5.6 rebounds per game.  Point guard Antoine Young is also very talented, averaging over 13 points a game and with an assist to turnover ratio of almost three to one.

Creighton shoots the ball extremely well, and Pomeroy has their EFG% at 52.6, good for 38th in the country.  They play inside out, shoot the three well, and pass the ball well (assists on over 60% of their field goals).  They also tend to take care of the basketball, ranking 86th in the country in turnovers.

Creighton's problems this year have been on the defensive end.  They play a man to man, and in some respects try to pack it in, similar to what Washington State did under Tony Bennett (though not as patient or good).  They will try hard to sell out to limit dribble penetration, but will leave a ton of shots open from the three point line.  The create almost no turnovers (344th in the country), but are also one of the best in the country at not allowing opponents to get to the free throw line (probably because their defense entices so many outside shots).  Pomeroy likes the home team in each game, picking Creighton to win the opener by two, but liking Oregon by five in Eugene.

This game is an interesting matchup.  Creighton doesn't really have a quality win on the schedule.  They will sell out to stop Joevan Catron, and other players are going to have to step up to win the series.  A ton of three point shots will be open, and Oregon is just the kind of team that could fall in love with them.  We also can't count on the turnover that we get against other teams--Creighton ran this system for years, and most of these kids went against it everyday in practice.  They know the system well.

KEYS TO THE SERIES:

Pick up the pace:  Creighton wants to slow the game down.  They want to run the offense through their posts, and set up in a pack line on defense and slog it out.  The press will speed the game up a bit.  But, also, run on both missed and made baskets.  Running will give Armstead, Loyd, and Strowbridge a chance to make some plays, and also give Catron some looks before the defense can get set.  If Oregon can control the pace, they can neutralize Creighton's game plan.

Active zone:  The zone needs to be very active and make it difficult for Creighton to run their offense through the posts.  When they do shoot, it has to be one and done.

Hit the three:  Oregon shoots a lot of threes, and Creighton will give them up.  If Oregon is making them at a reasonable clip, it should be blowout city.  Conversely, if Oregon falls in love with the shot, but doesn't make a lot of them, it could get awfully ugly in the opposite direction.

As I've said before, if we're in it, we may as well win it.  It may not mean anything (Oregon State won two years ago and has done nothing since, but VCU won last year and, well, look at them now).  But the younger guys are getting some experience in close games against quality competition, and the seniors are getting to go out on a positive note.  A couple more games is all these guys have left, lets hope they make the most of them.

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