BYU guard Alex Barcello (13) brings the ball up court in the second half during an NCAA college basketball game against Utah State Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021, in Provo, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

The No. 24 BYU Cougars (8-1) — who have been ranked as high as No. 12 in the AP poll this season — look to stay within the same ballpark as WCC rival Gonzaga against the Creighton Bluejays (7-2) Saturday in a neutral site matchup at the Sanford Pentagon.

Tip-off is at noon ET on FS1.

BYU enters the contest as favorites according to oddsmakers and KenPom predicts the Cougars will win 73-67.

Team Moneyline Spread Total
BYU -280 -6.5 (-110) O 140 (-110)
Creighton +220 +6.5 (-110) U 140 (-110)

Odds as of December 10th at FanDuel

Mark Pope’s team shot 50% or better for the third time this season in the 11-point win over the Aggies — its 10th straight against the program. Four players scored in double-figures, led by senior Alex Barcello’s 17 points. Te’Jon Lucas and Fousseyni Traore each had 14, while Trevin Knell added a season-high 13 in the win.

Meantime, Greg McDermott’s group got a season-high 25 from Ryan Hawkins against the Cyclones in a six-point defeat. But it wasn’t enough to keep the Bluejays from losing for the first time in 24 nonconference home games — mostly due to 21 turnovers, the most Creighton has had in over 13 years.

BYU Cougars Outlook

Barcello is averaging a team-leading 18.4 points per game for the Cougars (to go along with 3.2 rpg, 3.0 apg and 1.3 spg.) while shooting 42.2% from distance. The Arizona transfer has blossomed into one of the top guards in the country, owning a nearly 3:1 assist-to-turnover ratio and is also shooting 89.1% from the line.

The Cougs lost starting center Gavin Baxter to a season-ending knee injury a week-plus ago in their lone defeat, a 72-65 loss to Utah Valley in overtime. But thanks to Borcello and Co., BYU seems to be OK so far without him.

KenPom has Pope’s club rated as the 23rd best team in the country, and the Cougars are doing it on the both ends of the floor. They’re rated as the 27th-best group on offensive adjusted efficiency and 26th in defensive adjusted efficiency.

BYU is averaging 76.7 points per game and allow just 63.1 points per contest and owns a +7.9 rebound margin. Pope’s group really makes hay on defense, holding opponents to a 16th-best defensive effective field goal percentage and 9th-best defensive 3-point percentage.

Creighton has only eclipsed the 81-point plateau once this season (a 90-77 victory over Arknasas-Pine Bluff in the season opener), so this figures to be a lower-scoring tilt.

Creighton Bluejays Outlook

The young Bluejays returned seven lettermen from last year’s team that reached the program’s first Sweet 16 since 1974 in 2021-22 — but no starters.

Hawkins leads a quartet of players averaging in double-digits at 13.3 points an outing. He’s joined by Ryan Nembard (12.7), Ryan Kalkbrenner (12.2) and Alex O’Connell (10.9). Rated No. 73 by KenPom, Creighton is the seventh-best team in a stacked Big East right now — a league they were the runner-up in a year ago.

The “Ryan Express” — comprised of the team’s top three scorers — has contributed 59.6% of Creighton’s blocked shots, 52.8% of its points, 47.7% of its assists, 44.6% of its rebounds grabbed and 40.9% of its steals. Shut one of them down — which BYU is certainly capable of doing — and the Bluejays’ youthful house of cards get a little shaky.

This team — like BYU — is solid on both ends of the floor, rating 75th in offensive adjusted efficiency and 80th in defensive adjusted efficiency. But those numbers simply aren’t quite as good as the Cougars.

BYU vs Creighton Pick

BYU has the clear advantage in this spot. While I expect Creighton to rebound from the 21-turnover anomaly against Iowa State, the Cougars are the more experienced and better team.

Conversely, BYU has committed a turnover on just 16.2% of its possessions this season, which is the lowest rate among all WCC teams. The Cougars have turned the ball over only 11 times per game this season.

That kind of ball control is hard to deny, hence my fade of the Bluejays.

Pick: BYU -6.5 (-110)

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