2023 NCAA Elite Eight Game Preview & Prediction: No. 6 Creighton vs. No. 5 SDSU
Creighton and SDSU both reach the Elite Eight for the first time ever, and the winning team will also make its Final Four debut.
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The Aztecs seek redemption for last year’s heart-breaking Round of 64 loss against the Bluejays.
WHO: Creighton University Bluejays (24-12, 14-6 Big East) vs. San Diego State University Aztecs (30-6, 15-3 MW)
WHEN: Sunday, March 26th – 11:20 a.m. PST | 2:20 p.m. EST
WHERE: KFC Yum! Center- Louisville, KY (Capacity 22,090)
RADIO: San Diego Sports 760 / SiriusXM App ch. 968
SERIES RECORD: SDSU and Creighton meet for the 5th time on Sunday. The all-time series is tied at 2-2.
LAST MEETING: The Bluejays defeated the Aztecs 72-69 in overtime during the NCAA Tournament Round of 64 on March 17th, 2022.
WEBSITES: GoAztecs.com, the official San Diego State athletics website; GoCreighton.com, the official Creighton athletics website.
ODDS: SDSU +1.5
Louisville, KY – The No. 6 Bluejays (24-12) take on the No. 5 Aztecs (30-6) in the Elite Eight. Tip-off from KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky is scheduled for 2:20 p.m. EST (CBS) on Sunday, March 26th.
No. 5 San Diego State shocked the college basketball world by upsetting No. 1 Alabama 71-64 in the Sweet Sixteen. The Aztecs put on a defensive clinic that marveled anybody who watched the game.
No. 6 Creighton not surprisingly took down No. 15 underdog Princeton 86-75 after the Tigers impressively reached the Sweet Sixteen. Through the first half, the match was neck-at-neck, but in the second half the Bluejays pulled ahead and dominated.
San Diego State and Creighton have a bit of history. They’ve played four times since Nov. 2011. In 2019, during the Las Vegas Invitational, the Aztecs routed Creighton 83-52- their worst loss in 18 years. Last year, in the NCAA Round of 64, after losing a sizable lead,the Aztecs heartbreakingly lost to Creighton 72-69 in overtime.
This a rematch of sorts, and the Aztecs are looking for redemption.
Who will move on to the Final Four? Let’s take a closer look.
Why The Bluejays Will Win
Creighton outscores opponents by 8.3 points per game, averaging 77 while giving up 68.7 per match.
Creighton wins the rebound battle by 4.1 boards on average. It records 34.7 boards per game (40th in college basketball) while its opponents pull down 30.6 per match. The Bluejays average 8.8 three’s per game (42nd in college basketball) while holding their opponents to an average of 6.3.
Creighton ranks 26th in college basketball with 100.3 points scored per 100 possessions, and 118th in college basketball defensively with 89.5 points conceded per 100 possessions.
Offensively, Bluejays scoring leader is Ryan Kalkbrenner, averages 15.9 per contest to go with 6.1 rebounds and 1.2 assists. Baylor Scheierman is Creighton’s leading rebounder, grabbing 8.3 per game, while Ryan Nembhard is the team’s top passer, producing 4.9 assists per game.Scheierman leads the Bluejays in three-point shooting, averaging 2.4 per game.
Defensively, Trey Alexander and Kalkbrenner are Creighton’s leading defenders, with Alexander averaging a team-leading 1.1 steals per game and Kalkbrenner leads blocks at 2.1 per match.
Creighton should not be underestimated. Greg McDermott’s team will fight hard, and anything can happen this late in the NCAA Tournament.
Why The Aztecs Will Win
When the Aztecs are playing their best basketball they can beat any team in the country.
San Diego State eliminated one of the best offenses in the country on Friday. Despite Alabama averaging 81.8 points per game, the Aztecs held the Crimson Tide to only 64 points on 32.4% shooting from the floor and 11.1% behind the arc. SDSU even blocked eight shots while forcing 14 turnovers.
Offensively, Matt Bradley racks up 12.8 points per game to be the top scorer for the Aztecs. Nathan Mensah puts up a stat line of 5.9 rebounds, 6.1 points and 0.6 assists per game for San Diego State to take the top rebound spot on the team. Lamont Butler holds the top spot for assists with 3.4 per game, adding 8.5 points and 2.7 rebounds per outing. Adam Seiko makes 1.6 three-pointers per game, the most on the Aztecs.
Defensively, every Aztec plays smothering defense or they don’t play. San Diego State’s leader in steals is Butler (1.5 per game), and its leader in blocks is Mensah (1.6 per game).
The real advantage that the Aztecs hold over Creighton is their incredible depth. The Aztecs have perpetual fresh legs, and as great as the Bluejays are, they don’t have SDSU’s bench depth.
What Will Happen
Creighton’s offense is strong, but they will have fits shooting the ball. Over the last three games, SDSU’s opponents are averaging 32.2% on field-goals and 18.2% on three-pointers. The Aztecs’ 29.7 defensive boards per game over that stretch ranks 9th in the country, proving that they capitalize on missed shots they force.
San Diego State’s defense is just too elite to ignore. They have the guard play to match Creighton and a brutally suffocating defense that will make a dynamite offensive fail to blow things up.
Creighton will battle hard, but in the end the Aztecs will prevail and punch their ticket to the Final Four.
Final Score: SDSU 74, Creighton 66
The winner of No. 6 Creighton and No. 5 San Diego State will square off in the Final Four with No. 9 Florida Atlantic University (35-3) on Saturday, April 1st in Houston, Texas at a time to be determined.