NC State basketball opponent scouting report: Creighton

On3 imageby:Matt Carter03/15/23

TheWolfpacker

NC State basketball is 23-10 overall and set to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2018. The 11th-seeded Wolfpack will play sixth-seeded Creighton in Denver on Friday. The game is an approximately 4:00 p.m. tipoff.

The contest can be seen on TNT.

Here is a rundown of what to expect from Creighton (21-12).

Creighton overview

Expectations were very high for Creighton going into the season, and head coach Greg McDermott scheduled like a contender.

The preseason Big East favorite participated in the always-loaded Maui Invitational, traveled for a road game at Texas, hosted in-state rival Nebraska and went to Las Vegas to compete in the Jack Jones Hoopfest against both BYU and Arizona State. The result is that Creighton ended up with a non-conference strength of schedule of No. 21.

However, the results were mixed. After reaching the finals in Maui, the Bluejays lost their final five non-conference games. Following a loss in its Big East opener at Marquette, Creighton stood at 6-6 on the season.

Then, the Bluejays won 11 of 13 games to right the ship.

The Big East Tournament, however, was similar to NC State’s experience in the ACC Tourney. Creighton was impressive in a 13-point win over NIT-bound Villanova, but was blown out by fellow NCAA Tournament team Xavier.

Overall, Creighton went 3-5 against the four other Big East teams that are in the Big Dance, 3-1 vs. the two league teams participating in the NIT and 8-0 when it played the four teams that were all at least 6 games under .500 in the conference.

Rankings

NCAA’s NET rankingsCreighton checks in at No. 17 (out of 363 teams). NC State basketball is No. 45.

ESPN’s BPIThe Bluejays are No. 11. The Pack is No. 45.

KenPom.comCU is No. 13. The Wolfpack is No. 55.

National Coatings

Three Creighton players to watch against NC State basketball

Sophomore guard Trey AlexanderIn a lineup loaded with players comfortable shooting three-pointers, Alexander may be the one that NC State has to worry most about.

This season, Alexander made 62 of 141 attempts beyond the arc, or 44.0 percent. He’s also a career 81.5 percent shooter at the free throw line. Alexander is Creighton’s second-leading scorer at 13.6 points per contest and twice this season has made 7 three-pointers in a game, which has only been accomplished by four other former Creighton players.

Alexander was named honorable mention All-Big East.

Junior center Ryan Kalkbrenner: The 7-foot-1 Kalkbrenner is a lean, productive 260-pounder. He averages 15.4 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.2 blocked shots per game while shooting an eye-popping 71.4 percent from the field. Kalkbrenner made first-team All-Big East and is one of five finalists for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award, given to the best center in college basketball.

Kalkbrenner leads the country in field goal percentage shooting this season and is fifth all-time in NCAA history with a career mark of 67.3 percent.

He also became the 11th player in Big East history to win a second league Defensive Player of the Year. He had multiple blocked shots in 21 of 30 games played this year and has 192 for his career. For perspective, that would be third best in NC State basketball history. Kalkbrenner is also very foul-averse in his defense. Only twice this season has he picked up more than 3 in a game.

Senior wing Baylor Scheierman: Expectations were high for Creighton because the Bluejays returned three players who averaged double digits in points last season on a team that made the round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament. Added to that core group was Scheierman, a transfer from South Dakota State who was the Summit League Player of the Year in 2022.

In his debut season at Creighton, the 6-foot-7 Scheierman is averaging 12.8 points and a team-high 8.4 rebounds per game. In 2022 at South Dakota State, Scheierman made 83 threes while shooting 46.9 percent beyond the arc.

That percentage dropped to 36.2 this year, but he still made 77 treys for Creighton. He has also established a school record by making at least one three-pointer in 33 consecutive games.

Scheierman, who is also second for the Bluejays in assists per game (3.2), was named honorable mention All-Big East.

Three things NC State basketball should expect from Creighton

1. A strong starting five: In addition to the three players highlighted above, sophomore forward Arthur Kaluma and sophomore guard Ryan Nembhard also averaged double-digits scoring per game, with each contributing 11.9 per contest. Nembhard additionally leads Creighton at 4.9 assists per game.

NC State will have to contend with that five, and mainly those five, in Denver. Creighton typically plays up to nine players, but the bench is limited in production and minutes. Only senior guard Francisco Farabello plays double-digit minutes among the reserves at 15.5, and none of them average more than 3.8 points.

It is not uncommon in close, competitive games to see Creighton play all but Kaluma in the starting five for about 90 percent of the contest.

2. A three-pointer driven, potent offense: Kalkbrenner is an extremely efficient scorer in the post. However, where Creighton really does damage is by surrounding him with four starters who all made at least 39 threes this season. About 40 percent of the shot attempts by those four this year were beyond the arc.

Creighton is 46th out of 363 teams in Division I in three-pointers attempted per game (24.8) and 39th in made threes (8.9).

The combination of Kalkbrenner and the shooters make Creighton a potent offense that NC State will have to defend. The Bluejays share the basketball, ranking 23rd in assists per game at 15.9.

Creighton’s effective field goal percentage of 54.3 percent is 38th best in the country. For context, ACC foes Miami and Wake Forest rank 26th and 41st, respectively. In four games against those two teams this year, NC State gave up 78.0 points per contest (one was an overtime win vs. Miami).

3. A team that will not pressure on defense: Creighton is just 338th in turnovers forced per game at 10.0. NC State is seventh nationally in turnovers per game with 9.5. Thus, this is a game where the Wolfpack ball handlers should feel comfortable. The Bluejays are also just 299th in steals per game (5.2).

That does not mean NC State will have an easy time scoring. Creighton has one of the nation’s premier shot blockers in Kalkbrenner and holds teams to 42.2-percent shooting, which was third best in the Big East. Creighton also tends to limit teams to one-and-done. They had the Big East’s best defensive rebounding rate at grabbing 76.7 percent of opponents’ missed shots.

You may also like