No. 23 Creighton must keep mind on Providence

OMAHA, Neb. — Creighton and Providence hope to add a little shine to their postseason resumes in Wednesday’s Big East Conference basketball rematch.

For the No. 23 Bluejays, it’s about securing the No. 2 seed in the Big East tournament and the highest possible seed for the NCAA tourney.

Providence is trying to bounce off the NCAA bubble and into the tournament, whether it’s for a first-round game in Dayton or when the tournament begins in earnest March 16.

“It’s obviously a big game for Providence as they try to get themselves on the right side of the bubble for the NCAA tournament,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “It’s also a big game for us because we want to end the season on a little bit of a run.”

The Friars (16-11, 6-8 Big East) put themselves back in the discussion with victories over Butler and Xavier that have moved them to 67th in the latest RPI. A road victory over Creighton (22-5, 9-5) makes that RPI number shrink even further.

“It’s another opportunity for us to play a ranked team on the road,” Friars coach Ed Cooley told the Providence Journal. “We’re trying to do everything we can to get one win at a time because we feel we’ve given away many in the past.”

When the Friars first played Creighton on Jan. 7 at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, that win wasn’t one of those Providence gave away. The Bluejays were at full strength and en route to the highest ranking in school history (No. 7) later that month after that 78-64 victory.

“We were at full strength and playing well,” McDermott said. “They were struggling at that point. (Kyron) Cartwright didn’t play in the second half due to injury, so they’re a totally different basketball team right now.”

McDermott said Cartwright and Rodney Bullock are playing at a high level, and that has helped the Friars get the two big home wins over Butler and Xavier. Combine that with a team that traditionally plays defense, and McDermott knows the Bluejays are in for a battle.

“Some of their secondary pieces that weren’t a big part of their offense before are now,” McDermott said. “Defensively, Ed’s teams have always done a good job. They’ve had eight days to get ready, so I’m sure we’re going to see some things we haven’t seen before.”

There’s also no peeking ahead to Creighton’s Saturday showdown at No. 2 Villanova. A question about that possibility Wednesday was dismissed by McDermott as quickly as it was asked.

“No, no, no, not at all,” McDermott said. “I think they understand how important each game is with these last four, both positioning ourselves for the Big East tournament seed and also for a postseason seed.

“It’s that time of year when every one’s important. I think the second seed in the Big East tournament is going to be huge.”

Despite the 14-point loss last month, Friars forward Emmitt Holt is convinced things just might turn out differently this time against the Bluejays and Providence’s final three foes — Marquette, DePaul and St. John’s.

“I feel like all these games are winnable,” Holt told the Providence Journal. “We finish out strong, win ’em all, we’ll be back in this tournament.”

Creighton senior guard Isaiah Zierden said there’s no chance the Bluejays will take this game lightly

“We’ve had a tough time playing them ever since we (joined) the Big East,” Zierden said. “We did a decent job out there. They’re doing a lot better in transition than they were earlier in the conference season, so we have to make sure we’re doing a better job of transition defense.”