The 14th-ranked Creighton Bluejays and Wisconsin Badgers will close out first-round action of the Las Vegas Invitational, when the two teams meet up at the Orleans Arena Friday evening.
Greg McDermott's third season at the helm at Creighton couldn't have started any better, as his Bluejays have opened the year with four wins in as many games. Creighton has not just won the four games, but has destroyed the competition along the way, with routs of North Texas, UAB, Presbyterian and most recently, Longwood (105-57) all in Omaha.
Bo Ryan's Badgers have opened their season with three wins in the first four games. The three wins have all come in the friendly confines of the Kohl Center, while the lone loss was at Florida. Since the loss to the Gators, Wisconsin has recorded lopsided wins over Cornell (73-40) and Presbyterian (88-43).
Wisconsin won the only other meeting between these two teams, but that was back in 1949 (75-39).
Creighton has the luxury of housing the only returning consensus All-American in the form of Doug McDermott. The coach's son is at it again this year, shooting a strong .564 from the floor and leading the team in scoring at 16.8 ppg. The 6-8 junior is also second on the team in rebounding, pulling down 7.5 rpg. Scoring depth comes from Ethan Wragge (11.8 ppg) and Greg Echenique (11.3 ppg). The competition may have something to do with it, but Creighton's numbers at both ends of the court are pretty impressive. The team is enjoying an inflated +28.5 scoring margin, averaging 85.0 ppg, while allowing a mere 56.5. The Bluejays are shooting a scorching .570 from the field, including just over 40 percent from behind the arc (34-of-84).
The Bluejays ran out to a 37-15 lead three quarters of the way through the first half and never looked back, cruising to a 48-point romp of the Lancers last time out. McDermott and Echenique led the team with 17 points each. Wragge and Will Artino added 13 points apiece, as Creighton shot a sizzling .648 from the floor. The team as a whole recorded 27 assists, while scoring over 50 points in each half.
With Wisconsin, it is more about defensive tenacity than gaudy offensive numbers under Bo Ryan. However, in the early stages of the season, the Badgers have displayed both. The team is shooting a respectable .452 from the floor en route to 76.0 ppg, while holding foes to just 51.0 ppg, on .383 shooting. Junior guard Ben Brust may be just 6-foot-1, but he has recorded a double- double in three of the first four games and leads the team in both scoring (14.5 ppg) and rebounding (9.3 rpg). Jared Berggren is next in line in both categories (13.5 ppg, 6.8 rpg), while freshman Sam Dekker (10.5 ppg) has been a valuable asset off the bench.
Brust was at it once again against Presbyterian last time out, leading the way with 20 points and 12 rebounds. Dekker poured in 16 points in just 15 minutes of work, while George Marshall finished with 12 points. Wisconsin was able to shoot 52.4 percent from the floor for the game, including an impressive 58.1 percent in the second half. Wisconsin drained 16 3-pointers in the game, including 10 in the second half.