Free Pick Breakdown, Odds & Prediction: March Madness - #6 Creighton vs. #5 San Diego State (3/26/2023) - Taking Vegas

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Free Pick Breakdown, Odds & Prediction: March Madness – #6 Creighton vs. #5 San Diego State (3/26/2023)

By TakingVegas Staff Writer
March 26, 2023

#6 Creighton Bluejays vs #5 San Diego State Aztecs (3/26 @ 2:20 PM EST)

Spread: Creighton -1.5
Moneyline: Creighton -125 / SDSU +105
Total: 133.5

Overview and Betting Info

The #6 Creighton Bluejays (24-12) will take on #5 San Diego State (30-6) in the NCAA Tournament’s South Region Elite 8 on Sunday. Creighton finished third in the Big East while San Diego State won the Mountain West regular season and tournament title. These teams did not meet in the regular season.

Creighton is 19-17 against the spread this season and have covered six of their last seven games. They’ve gone over the total 17 times including in six of their last eight games.

SDSU is 18-15-2 versus the spread and have also covered six of their last seven games. They’ve only gone over the total 14 times but have been under in their previous ten games.

#6 Creighton Bluejays

Creighton earned a spot in the Elite 8 after defeating #15 Princeton 86-75 on Friday night. They got the win through rebounding and efficient shooting from all over the floor, as they had done against #3 Baylor. This Creighton team looks like the one that experts ranked ninth in the country to begin the season. They are now making 51% of their shots during their tournament run and have shown no signs of slowing down after making 58.2% against Princeton. They haven’t shown they can score against good defensive teams (though they haven’t faced many), so they’ll need to improve their own play on that end to stay close with the Aztecs.

Creighton’s office has been solid all season in a Big East conference filled with scoring. They finished ranked sixth in the conference in scoring (77.0 PPG), third in field goal percentage (47.0%), fourth in three-point percentage (35.8%), fourth in assists (15.9 APG), and third in turnovers (11.6 TO/G). On defense, the Jays ranked fifth in opponent scoring (68.7 PPG), third in field goal percentage (42.3%), fifth in rebounding (37.0 RPG), eleventh in steals, and seventh in blocks (4.2 BPG).

The Bluejays are led by the play of Ryan Kalkbrenner (15.9 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 2.1 BPG, 70.8 FG%), Trey Alexander (13.7 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 42.3 3P%), and Baylor Scheierman (12.8 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 36.6 3P%). Kalkbrenner has been fantastic during March Madness, averaging 21.0 points and 1.7 blocks. He has shot well, which is unsurprising for the player who was second in the country in field goal percentage. Thanks to the Bears’ size, he did have a down-scoring game in their win over Baylor. The Aztecs have a similar size, so we’ll see how Kalkbrenner responds on Sunday. Alexander has been great over their last two games, combining for 36 points and three steals. He is a dangerous three-point shooter, quick defender, and solid rebounder. Scheierman is coming off one of his best games of the season against Princeton, where he finished with 21 points, nine rebounds, and went 5-7 from three. While he isn’t as efficient as Alexander, he averages the fourth most attempts in the Big East (6.5).

#5 San Diego State

The Aztecs stunned the country by defeating the top overall seed in Alabama. SDSU found themselves down nine points with 11 minutes to go but rallied to take the lead and ended up cruising to victory. We knew they were elite on defense, but holding an Alabama team averaging 81 points to just 64 is impressive. The Aztec’s forcer 14 turnovers, nine steals, and eight blocks to help overtake the Tide in the second half. Their success on offense comes from their depth, as nine players average over 15 minutes per game. There are many scoring options and fresh legs to keep their defensive play relentless.

SDSU has been one of the best defensive teams in the country all season. They finished twenty-fourth in the nation in opponent scoring (63.1 PPG) and third in three-point percentage (28.2%). They also led their conference in opponent field goal percentage (40.8%), ranked third in rebounds (36.3 RPG), second in steals (7.0 SPG), and second in blocks (4.0). The Aztec offense has struggled a bit, ranking seventh in the Mountain West in scoring (71.9 PPG), seventh in field goal percentage (44.3%), seventh in three-point percentage (34.9%), and sixth in assists (13.4 APG). One of the reasons they can overcome those offensive numbers has been their ability to generate second chances, ranking second in the conference in offensive rebounds (10.8 ORPG). They are averaging 11.7 offensive rebounds during the NCAA Tournament.

The Aztecs are led by a trio made up of Matt Bradley (12.8 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 36.1 3P%), Darrion Trammell (9.8 PPG, 1.3 SPG), and Lamont Butler (8.5 PPG, 1.5 SPG). Bradley is coming off one of his worst games of the season, making just 22.2% of his shots for six points. He got into foul trouble and only played 19 minutes, but his previous two tournament games were better. Trammell has stepped up to score more during March Madness, highlighted by his 21 points and two steals against Alabama on Friday night. He has been shooting well from three, making 41.2% of his attempts. SDSU hasn’t had consistent scoring all season, but Trammell’s hot shot has helped them advance the last two rounds. Butler is a streaky scorer but has contributed to many categories during their tournament run. Though he went 1-7 from the field, Butler added four rebounds, four assists, three steals, and a block.

Free Pick: SDSU ML +105

It is really, really hard to beat a team as deep as San Diego State in March. The Aztecs have had a different lead scorer and leading rebounder in each of their tournament games. With no star that rises above the best, it’s hard to find a way to shut this team down. Two of the Aztec’s top three scorers were awful against Alabama, but they still managed a seven-point win. The ability to shut down the seventh-best scoring offense in the nation has us believing they can do the same against a Creighton team that struggled against the few good defensive teams they played.

Despite Kaltenbrunner’s size, the Aztecs have the talent to shut him down as Baylor did last weekend. Without his scoring, Creighton’s guards will be forced into contested shots by an SDSU team that just did the same to Alabama. They will keep it close for a while, but expect the Aztecs to pull away and cruise to their first Final Four appearance.

We’re taking San Diego State to win on Sunday.

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