Marquette vs. Creighton: 2019-20 college basketball game preview, TV schedule

Marquette Basketball heads to Omaha for a high-octane Big East showdown with Creighton Basketball on New Year’s Day.

TV Schedule: Wednesday, Jan. 1 at 9 p.m. EST (FS1)
Location: CHI Health Center Omaha (Omaha, Neb.)

The Marquette Golden Eagles (10-2) and Creighton Bluejays (11-2) have been at the forefront of college basketball’s move towards the three-point arc in their programs’ respective Steve Wojciechowski and Greg McDermott eras. Perimeter play will be pivotal as the two teams square off in Omaha to open the 2020 Big East campaign.

Even without the sharpshooting Hausers, Marquette sports the top three-point percentage in the nation (42.7 percent). Markus Howard (26.3 ppg) is torching the nets with a 48 percent mark on nearly nine attempts a night, but his sidekicks Sacar Anim, Jamal Cain, Brendan Bailey, and Greg Elliott have chipped in as well, nailing over 43 percent of their treys on roughly 11 combined attempts per game.

Of course, in classic Creighton fashion, four Bluejays are averaging at least six three-point attempts per game: Marcus Zegarowski (39 percent), Ty-Shon Alexander (44 percent), Mitch Ballock (45 percent), and Denzel Mahoney (28 percent). Mahoney has played just three games since he became eligible after the first semester, but with his 40 percent three-point mark across two years at Southeast Missouri State, it’s safe to assume he’s percentages will climb. Should he return to his expected stat line, CU field will four of the Big East’s most dangerous shooters.

By percentage, the Golden Eagles and Bluejays also do well to limit their opponent’s success from beyond the arc, as both have held teams to a sub-31 percent shooting. But that number needs to come with a bit of context. Marquette’s length on the wing between Cain, Bailey, Elliott, and Koby McEwen (who is currently day-to-day with a thumb injury) should equate to stingy perimeter defense. MU finished in the top-70 in the country in three-point defense last season as well, so Wojo is establishing a trend in effectively guarding the three-point line.

Creighton, meanwhile, was torched from deep last year (ranked 210th), and though its percentage may look good thus far in 2019-20, that mark does not hold up with further inspection.

Opponents simply are not attempting many threes against the Jays because 1) they are more comfortable attacking inside with CU sorely lacking in size, and 2) because Creighton has played very few quality shooting teams. Nine of Creighton’s 12 Division-1 opponents rank 130th or worse in three-point percentage. In CU’s three games against good shooting teams – Michigan (ranked 16th in percentage), North Florida (34th), and San Diego State (26th) – the opponents hit over 41 percent of their three-point attempts. Will Creighton be able to handle a Marquette team that enters 2020 absolutely scorching from behind the arc (50-105 over its past four games)? And how will the Jays fare in a Big East that historically features a bevy of perimeter-oriented programs?

The Marquette-Creighton matchup is not a battle featuring classic rivals, but with their common Jesuit affiliations, comparable Midwest cities, similarly-sized student populations, and impressive basketball histories, there is certainly some kind of budding connection between the two programs. And if their next five years of contests are anything like the last five, these games should be appointment viewing for any diehard college basketball fan.

The last 10 meetings have each been decided by eight points or less, highlighted by last year’s January epic in Omaha, which featured a back-and-forth overtime period, a Big East-record 53 points from Howard, 210 total points on 33 combined made three-pointers, a shocking late-game miscue, and a buzzer-beating heave to close out regulation.

Next: Top-25 Power Rankings

With some of the league’s most exciting perimeter scorers dotting these rosters, expect even more late-night fireworks out of Omaha to close out New Year’s Day in style.