This is the first part of a two-part scouting report featuring a big match on the day. Today’s match highlights a Big East match-up between #13 Creighton and Butler. We will break down what each team excels at, what their weaknesses might be, and how to beat each team.
- #13 Creighton (21-5, 14-1 Big East) at Butler (21-6, 11-4 Big East)
- Indianapolis, Indiana
- 1 PM Eastern Time
- Streamed on Facebook Live
- Full TV and streaming list
I know what you’re thinking. Why this match? Creighton’s magic number is one (with three remaining) to clinch the #1 seed in the Big East Tournament, Butler might not make the NCAA tournament, and this match isn’t even on TV.
Let me tell you what you might not know. Butler’s RPI (as of November 6) is 58. That’s squarely on the bubble for being selected to the NCAA tournament. The Bulldogs need a signature win. Creighton’s RPI is 14. The last time these two teams met was in Omaha, and it went to an epic five sets. No one beats Creighton in Sokol Arena (well, maybe USC, but they’re a shoo-in for the NCAAs). Aside from the minor slip-up against Marquette a few weeks ago, Creighton has handled everything the Big East has thrown at them, and are now one win away from their fourth straight Big East Conference regular season title.
But it’s even more than that. Creighton cannot afford to slip in any of their remaining matches. Butler (58), Villanova (77) and Georgetown (212) comprise the rest of the Bluejays’ schedule, and none of those matches can help Creighton’s RPI number. The aim is to host, and Sokol Arena is no picnic.
However, Butler owns exactly one signature win, against Marquette in Milwaukee. The uniqueness of Butler’s playing surface can pose problems for some teams. Spacial differences aside (2-foot raised parquet floor, anyone?), Hinkle is not exactly easy to play in either. This is a perfect opportunity for Butler to steal a win.
The last time these two played, Creighton had to storm back from 0-2 down, Jaali Winters needed a career night (28 kills), Lydia Dimke needed almost a triple-double (69 assists, 13 digs, 7 kills), Brittany Witt needed a career-high (30 digs) and only an 8-1 run to end set 5 saved Creighton. So what can we expect in act 2?
BUTLER’S KEYS TO VICTORY
- Offensive balance
This is probably predicated on Butler passing well. The Bulldogs have five players averaging more than 2 kills per set, led by redshirt junior outside hitter Whitney Beck (3.18) and junior outside hitter Anna Logan (3.10). They also have very efficient middles in junior Bri Lilly (2.56, .379) and sophomore Brooke Gregory (2.33, .278) and their freshman right side Natalie Ravanell (2.14) has been a nice surprise to coach Sharon Clark’s roster. However, once passing breaks down, all three pin attackers need to carry the load. Neither Beck nor Logan are capable of carrying the offense alone—-at least, not yet.
- Toughness and relentlessness. Stay in the rally.
The Bulldogs have already gone to five sets eight times this season, going 6-2 in those matches. Not bad for a team that has only one senior, setter Makayla Ferguson. If you’ve ever seen her play, she’s as tough and as resilient as they come. Never takes a play off, and part of me thinks she likes playing the undersized underdog role (ok, that was an unintended pun. Sorry.). Ferguson can get to any ball, and is clearly the floor general. Her resilience feeds the team, and the team responds. Keep the ball off of the floor, and rallies can continue. But if you can keep the ball off of the floor AND set a hittable ball—Butler prides itself on that level of relentlessness. They can win ugly, and at this time of year, a win is a win.
CREIGHTON’S KEYS TO VICTORY
- Big time match focus
Creighton is in the conversation to host on the first weekend of the NCAAs because of their huge wins. Their big victories include Washington (RPI: 8), Kansas (12), Pitt (27), Kentucky (4), Northern Iowa (46), and Marquette (33). UW and KU were road wins. I’m not sure that there are many other mid-major teams that have that many top 50 wins. The Bluejays to not shy away from heavy competition or how big the moment might be. Credit coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth for the toughness that has surrounded this program since her arrival. If you think Creighton isn’t ready for how big this match might be, you haven’t seen them play.
- First-ball kill
Creighton currently leads the Big East in kills per set (14.33), and hitting percentage (.279), and are going against the Big East’s leader in blocks per set (2.75) and opponent hitting percentage (.166). This is feast or famine for the Bluejays. Either put the first ball away (Creighton’s way) or extend the rally (Butler’s way). The longer the rally, the lower the hitting percentage gets. For me, this is where the difference in the match begins and ends.
This is a big match for both teams. Both teams will qualify for the Big East tournament. Creighton will wrap up the Big East regular season title. But this match isn’t about those things. This match could easily dictate each team’s position in the NCAA tournament in December—or for Butler, getting into the tournament at all.