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Here’s why we’re backing Creighton’s hot streak in rematch with Marquette

Lay the points with Creighton, which carries a 9-1 hot streak into Big East rematch with Golden Eagles

Creighton guard Baylor Scheirman (right) dribbles the ball while being defended by Marquette guard Tyler Kolek during a Big East game on Dec. 16. Marquette scored a 69-58 upset at home and will head to Creighton for a rematch Tuesday night. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Creighton guard Baylor Scheirman (right) dribbles the ball while being defended by Marquette guard Tyler Kolek during a Big East game on Dec. 16. Marquette scored a 69-58 upset at home and will head to Creighton for a rematch Tuesday night. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)Read morePatrick McDermott / Getty Images

Just how generous has Marquette been to college basketball bettors this season? The Golden Eagles have covered just once in their last four games, yet their 18-9 ATS mark is still tied for third-best in all of Division I.

Then there’s Creighton, which has turned its season around over the past month courtesy of an ongoing 9-1 SU run. However, the Bluejays are just 5-5 ATS during this stretch (all as a favorite).

In fact, since cashing in six of its first eight games, Creighton is 7-12 ATS. That includes a 69-58 loss at Marquette as a 4-point road favorite back on Dec. 16.

So why do oddsmakers have No. 19 Creighton as a solid favorite in Tuesday’s Big East rematch with No. 10 Marquette? Especially when the Golden Eagles are alone atop the Big East standings and have just six losses all season — just one by more than five points?

We’re thinking the same thing you are: This smells like a trap. And we’re not taking the bait.

Odds updated as of 10:25 a.m. ET on Feb. 21.

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Marquette vs. Creighton Prediction

  1. Creighton -5.5, -105 (at BetMGM)

Marquette vs. Creighton Prediction: Analysis

There’s nothing negative to say about Marquette. The Golden Eagles (21-6, 18-9 ATS) have been absolutely phenomenal this season, both on the court and at the betting window.

Even college hoops analytics expert KenPom has come around; he currently has Marquette ranked No. 12.

By any and every measure, the Golden Eagles have obliterated their preseason expectations. And coach Shaka Smart absolutely deserves to be among the top contenders for national Coach of the Year.

All that said, the reality is Marquette has been teetering lately.

Since a 73-64 victory over Villanova as a 6-point home favorite on Feb. 1, the Golden Eagles:

  1. Have a lackluster home win over Butler (60-52 as a 15-point favorite)

  2. Suffered their worst loss of the season at UConn (87-72 as a 5.5-point underdog)

  3. Let woeful Georgetown hang around for 40 minutes (89-75 win as an 11.5-point road favorite)

  4. And needed a tip-in with less than two seconds to play to get past Xavier (69-68 as a 6.5-point home chalk)

In the latter contest, Marquette trailed the entire first half and never had a lead larger than four points the entire night.

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The good news for the Golden Eagles: They’ve been idle since the Xavier nail-biter, giving them six full days of rest heading into Tuesday’s showdown at Creighton.

The not-so-good-news for the Golden Eagles: They’re running into a red-hot Bluejays team that is playing like the Final Four sleeper many college hoops experts pegged them to be prior to this season.

In fact, Creighton would be riding a 10-game winning streak right now if not for a 94-86 double-overtime loss at Providence exactly a week ago.

The Bluejays returned to the road Saturday and showed a lot of fortitude in bouncing back from the Providence heartbreaker with a 77-67 victory at St. John’s as a 7-point favorite.

Creighton’s calling card during its resurgence? Defense.

The Bluejays have limited eight of 10 opponents to 67 points or fewer. And even the two outliers have an asterisk: Creighton gave up 76 points the first time it faced St. John’s on Jan. 25, but it scored 104. And in the double-overtime loss at Providence, the Friars only had 73 points in regulation.

What about Marquette’s 11-point rout of the Bluejays in mid-December? There was a key piece missing from Creighton’s puzzle that day: 7-foot-1 starting center and leading scorer Ryan Kalkbrenner (14.8 points per game).

The junior missed three straight contests in December with an illness. The last of those was at Marquette.

Since Kalkbrenner returned to action, Creighton is 12-3 overall, including 8-0 at home (all in Big East play).

What has Kalkbrenner contributed in those 15 games? Double-digit points in 13 games and at least four rebounds in each contest (including seven boards or more eight times).

No, Kalbrenner’s numbers and all-around talent won’t be confused with another 7-footer, national Player of the Year frontrunner Zach Edey from Purdue. But he’s a key cog in Creighton’s machine. And him not being on the court at Marquette two months ago was a factor in the outcome.

Finally, this is a massive game for the Bluejays. Not only would a victory pull them into a first-place tie with the Golden Eagles, but it would enhance their KenPom rating (currently No. 10) and their NCAA Tournament seed.

If Creighton gets swept by Marquette, the tournament selection committee would favor the Golden Eagles come seeding time, no matter what happens in the Big East tournament.

Well, our money says Creighton remains hot Tuesday, extends a close game late and deals the Golden Eagles their second-biggest setback of the season.

Marquette vs. Creighton Odds (via BetMGM):

  1. Point spread: Marquette (+5.5) @ Creighton (-5.5)

  2. Moneyline: Marquette (+180) @ Creighton (-225)

  3. Total: 148.5 points

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