North Dakota vs. creighton
The Creighton Bluejays enter the 2022-23 college basketball season with an immense amount of hype.
At the Big East Conference, the Bluejays are favorites listed in many books, beating the mighty Villanova’s odds. Nationally, many expect Creighton to spend the season ranked in the AP Poll (where he currently ranks ninth) and potentially advance to the NCAA tournament.
If Creighton comes close to those expectations, early-season games, like Thursday’s match with North Dakota, shouldn’t be competitive. KenPom ranks the Fighting Hawks as a team in the top 30 in the country despite an opening night win.
If you’re a Creighton believer, this game should be a blast. The Bluejays, however, have their skeptics, and November can bring surprises.
Last season, North Dakota won just four games against Division I opponents. The Fighting Hawks ranked 354th defensively in the country and finished 2-16 in the Summit League.
The only player with a double-digit scoring average on this team was rookie Paul Bruns (transferred to South Dakota). He also led last year’s Hawks in rebounds and steals.
Coach Paul Sather started with two rookies in the opening game against Incarnate Word, which North Dakota won by eight points despite trailing in the second half.
Incarnate Word is ranked 358th on KenPom, the sixth worst in the country. Defeating the Cardinals by a nose shouldn’t really qualify as cause for optimism in Grand Forks.
All indications point to another long season, even in the Summit League, which is at the bottom of the college basketball hierarchy.
Creighton had a fair amount of buzz when last season ended. The Bluejays went 23-12, earning an overall offer to the NCAA tournament despite season-ending injuries from key contributors.
Four of Greg McDermott’s top six contributors were expected to return, and every one of them did. In addition, McDermott put together an impressive recruiting class that included the top 100 Mason Miller recruits.
The cherry on top came via the transfer portal as South Dakota State swingman Baylor Scheierman picked Creighton after building a 1000+ point career as Jackrabbit.
The pieces are in place for one of the best teams in college basketball. The hype can quickly turn to pressure, however. Questions arose, looking for what could contain the Bluejays.
Can 7ft Ryan Kalkbrenner anchor a team both defensively and top scorer?
Can Ryan Nembhard reduce a 24% turnover rate as he recovers from the injury that ended his season last year?
How much will Creighton miss Ryan Hawkins, his leading scorer and constant presence from a year ago?
And perhaps most importantly, will all these young players experience a linear form of growth, playing better than they did a year ago?
North Dakota vs Creighton Betting Pick
Almost none of those questions will come into play on Thursday night against North Dakota.
If these kinds of big, long-term outcomes are being discussed during this game, something has probably gone terribly wrong for Creighton.
Even if the Bluejays tick all the boxes and play flawlessly, little credibility will be given to a victory over North Dakota. But with a team of young players working to team up with some newcomers, every chance to take the field could prove useful in the future.
McDermott is a good enough coach to recognize that. His Creighton teams have never lost a home game to a team outside the KenPom top 125.
The show’s only loss for a team ranked 200th or worse under McDermott was a trip to North Texas in 2015 (an odd programming choice, if I’ve ever seen one).
The Bluejays must be much better than the North Dakota, even playing with younger players late in the game. The spread is huge, but it should be.
I also like to take Creighton’s team total. Creighton’s offense is strong enough that his Big East opponents will stop, let alone a team that ranked in the bottom five nationally in defense last season.