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No. 5 Creighton vs. No. 12 UCSB preview, picks for first round of 2021 NCAA Tournament

The Creighton Bluejays and UCSB Gauchos meet at Lucas Oil Stadium in the first round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament. We’ve got everything you need on both teams ahead of the game here.

Jahvon Blair #0 of the Georgetown Hoyas celebrates his three point shot in the first half against the Creighton Bluejays during the Big East Championship game at Madison Square Garden on March 13, 2021 in New York City. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Update March 19: Here are the updated bet splits for No. 5 Creighton vs. No. 12 UC Santa Barbara as of March 19th at 10:30 a.m. from DraftKings Sportsbook:

Creighton -7.5: 30% of handle, 23% of bets
UCSB +7.5: 70% of handle, 77% of bets

Over 138: 84% of handle, 81% of bets
Under 138: 16% of handle, 19% of bets

Update March 18: Here are the updated bet splits for Creighton vs. UCSB as of March 18th at 11:00 a.m. from DraftKings Sportsbook:

Creighton -7: 33% of handle, 23% of bets
UCSB +7: 67% of handle, 77% of bets
Over 138.5: 94% of handle, 77% of bets
Under 138.5: 6% of handle, 23% of bets

The Creighton Bluejays finished as runner-up in the Big East Tournament will start their road to the Final Four on Saturday afternoon at 3:30, as they take on the UCSB Gauchos on TruTV.

No. 5 Creighton: 20-8 (14-6 Big East): At-large

KenPom rating: 19 Overall, 14 Offense, 40 Defense
NET ranking: 26, (7-3 VS Quad 1)
Leading scorer: Marcus Zegarowski, 15.5 ppg
Key stat: Creighton topped the Big East with 198 steals this season.

The Bluejays come in ranked No. 14 in adjusted offensive efficiency with a very balanced attack. All five starters are averaging double-digit points, making this a very difficult team to plan for as any one of them can go on a scoring run. Junior guard Marcus Zegarowski leads the team with 15.5 points per game to go along with 4.3 assists per matchup.

Creighton shoots with an eFG of 55.7%, which is the best mark in the Big East. Defensively there are question marks for this Bluejays team, but they check in at No. 19 overall in the latest KenPom ratings despite a 73-48 blowout by the Hoyas in their last game. The controversy around the comments of head coach Greg McDermott has been set aside for now, but how it’s effecting the team is unclear as they won two games in the Big East Tournament.

No. 12 UCSB: 22-4 (15-3 Big West): Automatic Bid

KenPom rating: 69 Overall, 66 Offense, 82 Defense
NET ranking: 54 (0-0 VS Quad 1)
Leading scorer: JaQuori McLaughlin, 16.2 ppg
Key stat: UCSB led the Big West in field goal percentage at 47% this season.

UCSB ran away with the Big West during the regular season and made easy work of their opponents in the conference tournament as well. The Gauchos have lost just one game since the calendar has flipped to 2021, and it came on a back-to-back against the same opponent. KenPom’s metrics have them as a pretty consistent team, ranking in the 60s through low 80s in virtually all statistics nationally.

McLaughlin, an Oregon State transfer, is the catalyst of the team. He’s averaging over 16 points per contest and is shooting over 40% from beyond the arc. Still, KenPom is giving them just a 19% chance to come away with a win in this one.

March Madness Odds from DraftKings Sportsbook

Point spread: Creighton -7
Point total: 138.5
Moneyline: Creighton -315, UCSB +255

The Pick

Against The Spread Pick: Creighton -7
Point total pick: Over
Pick to Win: Creighton

UCSB has been fantastic this season, but their schedule leaves a lot to be desired. With no games against tier-one opponents, it’s tough to gauge just how competitive they’ll be against the Blue Jays. Without them taking the floor against better competition, the talent gap will be much larger than they’ve seen so far.