NCAAW: Villanova Wildcats open Big East play against Creighton Bluejays

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The Villanova Wildcats (6-1, 0-0 Big East) begin their 2022-23 Big East conference schedule on Friday against the Creighton Bluejays (6-0, 1-0 Big East). The game will be streamed live on FloHoops, with tip-off scheduled for 7 p.m. ET.

Both Villanova (No. 25) and Creighton (No. 13) are currently ranked among the country’s Top 25 teams by the Associated Press; with UConn (No. 3) and Marquette (No. 24) also included in the rankings, the Big East is well-represented nationally, and Friday’s game between the Wildcats and Bluejays will be the first of several matchups throughout the conference that will eventually have seeding implications for the 2023 NCAA Tournament.

For now, though, it’s an early-season test for two programs that are plenty familiar with each other. Last season, Villanova and Creighton split the two games they played, and both made the NCAA Tournament, with Creighton making a Cinderella-esque run to the Elite Eight. The Wildcats made it to the second round.

The Bluejays have kept things rolling into the 2022-23 regular season, and while they’ve scaled back the 3-point-heavy approach that led them to several upset wins in last spring’s tournament, their offensive production remains high, and it’s led to their highest-ever Associated Press ranking. Creighton has once again been one of the best teams in the country at taking care of the basketball; its assist/turnover ratio of 1.63 ranks fourth in Division I, per Her Hoop Stats, and the Bluejays are averaging just 10.7 turnovers per game. They’re also shooting the ball at a highly-efficient 53.2 percent effective field goal percentage, 26th in Division I; Lauren Jensen (18.7 points per game) and Morgan Maly (16.3) are their leading scorers.

Villanova, meanwhile, values its possessions just as highly, turning the ball over even less frequently than Creighton (10 per game; third in Division I) and allowing just four opponent steals per game.

The Wildcats’ offense, however, is much more dependent on one player than Creighton’s. That player is, of course, senior forward and reigning Big East Player of the Year Maddy Siegrist, who was recently named to the watch list for the prestigious Wade Trophy. Siegrist is currently averaging eye-popping statistics of 27.4 points (first in the Big East), 10.1 rebounds (third) and 1.9 steals per game while shooting 52.2 percent from the field and 40.7 percent on 3-pointers.

Creighton, in all likelihood, will throw everything it has at Siegrist to slow her down, though the key for a Villanova victory may very well lie in the Wildcats’ own defense. Opponents have shot well against the Wildcats from beyond the arc this season (37.7 percent), but their 2-point defense has been stifling, allowing opponents to shoot just 35.1 percent inside the arc (sixth in Division I); even the Baylor Bears, who dealt the Wildcats their lone loss of the season, knocked down only 38 percent of their 2-pointers. We’ll see if Creighton’s disciplined, efficient offense can buck this trend.

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