Big East Tournament: Preview of DePaul vs. Creighton

DePaul takes on Creighton tonight at 6 p.m. CST in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament in New York City. The Blue Demons are coming off of a 60-56 upset of Georgetown last night. Creighton, ranked No. 14 in the country, will be looking to move on in a tournament they clearly expect to win. A quick glance around Madison Square Garden last night revealed that the Creighton contingent outnumbers every other Big East school (besides perhaps St. John’s), so DePaul will have to treat tonight like a road game.

What to watch for: Defending McDermott. DePaul won last night because of a late surge on offense, but their defense was solid throughout. The next test will be their toughest-defending All-American Doug McDermott. The senior averaged 26.5 points per game this season and scored 45 in his final regular season contest to move into seventh place all time in career scoring. It’s impossible to stop the versatile forward, but it is possible to contain him. If DePaul can hold him to an inefficient 18 to 23 points, there might be a chance.

X-factor: Tommy Hamilton. Hamilton was solid last night, including a stretch early in the second half where he looked absolutely unstoppable. But then he disappeared. He will be matched up against McDermott much of the night. In addition, his offensive game resembles McDermott’s. If Hamilton can play up to the level of the competition, he gives his team a chance to win on any night. This could be the most important game of his young career.

DePaul will win if…They defend the perimeter aggressively. Creighton is so much more than just McDermott. They are a high-powered offensive team that has shooters all over the court. DePaul must lock down the perimeter or risk losing control quickly. Creighton is the type of team that you can play close for 30 minutes until a barrage of three-pointers makes it a blowout in the blink of an eye.

Prediction: DePaul played inspired ball last night and will play hard again today, but the talent level on the Bluejays’ side is just too much. It will either happen like this: Creighton will get out to a big lead early and stay ahead by 10-15 points for the duration of the game, or it will be close for a while before a second-half run puts Creighton up by double digits. Either way, expect McDermott and Co. to leave the Garden with a win. 85-73, Creighton.