Evaluating Players in the Providence-Creighton Game

January 20th, 2021

By Alan Lu

Today, I decided to watch Big East basketball game that took place between 11th ranked Creighton and Providence.  Recently, Providence’s 6-5 junior guard, Dave Duke has been gaining traction as a draft prospect, and there have been some rumblings about him potentially being worthy of going in the first round for the 2021 draft.  Meanwhile, Creighton’s 6-2 junior point guard, Marcus Zegarowski is a steady playmaker that is currently considered to be one of the best point guards in the country, and I hadn’t yet had time to see him play in a live college basketball game until now. 

It was a tough, competitive game that started out fast, but it quickly got bogged down by lots of whistles and foul calls that really slowed the game down.  Providence was able to get off to a big lead early on, but Creighton chipped away at the lead to make things very competitive. Fueled mostly by Nate Watson’s strong 29-point performance, Providence was able to hold on to get a four-point win on the road.  Here are my thoughts on how Watson, Zegarowski, Duke, and other various prospects fared on this day.

Providence’s senior center, Nate Watson scored 29 points in his team’s win over Creighton.
(Photo:
Mitchell Layton/Getty Images, via The Score)

Providence’s senior center, Nate Watson had a solid showing in his team’s win over Creighton.  In a game that was slowed down by foul calls, both teams combined to commit 42 personal fouls, which would be the equivalent to committing 50 fouls combined in an NBA game, Watson benefitted in the slow-paced game.  Watson was very effective as a low post scorer, as he scored 29 points on 12 of 19 shooting, and his team leaned on him heavily for offense to help them get the win.

Watson did a good job of scoring in the post.  He has good strength, hands, and scoring touch to frequently score down low.  He would use drop steps, ball fakes, and spin moves to score inside, and he can score on layups and turnaround jump hooks.  He also was able to use a spin move to score on a dunk, and he also threw down another jam on a separate play.  He also will go hard to the hoop to draw fouls upon his defenders to get to the free throw line.  He did miss a few times, as he would occasionally rush his shots, but in this game, Watson was very a dependable scoring option when he would get the ball on the block.

He also excelled at scoring on hustle plays.  Watson tended to score on rolls to the rim, and he also would run the floor to score in transition as well as off of put backs.  He did take a couple of mid-range shots, but he missed a couple of those jumpers when he would take them from further out.

In this game, Watson didn’t seem to make any noteworthy passes, but he also didn’t commit many turnovers, either.  He did commit a turnover once, as he tried to use a spin move in the post, but ended up having the ball ripped away from him that time. Though he didn’t quite dominate on the glass, Watson was able to leap up to get his fair share of boards on both ends of the floor.

Defensively, he looked to be about average at best.  He was active defensively.  However, he struggled to defend in one-on-one situations.  He had some trouble defending in the post, as he would get called for hand-checking, and other times he would not show much resistance when defending down low, which would lead him to allow scores.  Another time, he got beat off the dribble to allow a score on a separate play.

In general, Nate Watson played well in this game as he scored 29 points to help his team get an upset win over Creighton.  He especially excelled as a low post scorer for his team.  Right now, he will need to improve his rebounding and defense and also work on extending his shooting range.  Right now, he is a borderline second round candidate for the 2021 draft, and if he can continue to play well, he could end up playing his way to be a rotational big man in the NBA someday.

Creighton’s junior point guard, Marcus Zegarowski had 17 points and 3 assists in his team’s loss to Providence.
(Photo:
John Peterson/AP, via KMTV-TV)

Creighton’s 6-2 junior point guard, Marcus Zegarowski also put forth a solid performance in his team’s stunning loss to Providence.  He is a smart, skilled playmaker that can shoot and pass the basketball, and he managed to score 17 points, as he made 3 three-pointers, and had 4 rebounds, 3 assists, a steal in this game.

Zegarowski did a good job of knocking down jumpers to provide floor space for his team on offense.  He was able to make a couple of quick, spot-up threes off the catch, and he also stepped back and made a bank three late in this game.  Though he missed his fair share of outside shots, he generally excellat at knocking down threes both off the catch and dribble,

Also, he showed a satisfactory ability to score off the dribble.  Zegarowski used a crossover move to score on a graceful layup once, and he also would frequently draw fouls upon his defenders to get to the free throw line.  Sometimes though, he would rush his shots, which would lead to misses.

He also displayed decent playmaking skills.  Zegarowski can throw solid passes off the dribble, and he can get the ball to his teammates in a variety of ways to set up scores for them.  He is a patient player that can subtly get by his opponents, and he will look to get them the ball in spots where they can score afterwards.  He did commit one turnover though, as he lost a ball when handling it as it sailed into the backcourt and also went out of bounds. Plus, he did a fairly good job of rebounding the basketball.  Zegarowski was especially active at crashing the offensive glass, and he was able to get plenty of offensive rebounds to help his team on the boards.

He also played above average defense.  Zegarowski was active at contesting jumpers, and he was able to successfully challenge a three-point shot to force a miss.  He also ripped a ball away when rotating to the post to get a steal.  However, sometimes he would struggle to defend quicker players out on the perimeter, and there was one play where he ended up fouling an opponent on a drive to the hoop.

In summary, Marcus Zegarowski played well in his team’s loss to Providence.  He especially excelled at making plays on offense, as he was reliable as a shooter, scorer, and facilitator for his team.  Right now, he projects to be a second round prospect.  Though he doesn’t possess elite physical tools, he is a skilled playmaker that has a high basketball IQ, and he could project well into a backup point guard role in the NBA.

Providence’s 6-5 junior guard, Dave Duke had his ups and downs in his team’s win over Creighton. He had a slow start to this game, and though he didn’t quite play nearly as well as expected, he still was able to make some key shots down the stretch to help his team get the victory.

Duke is a solid shooter that excels at knocking down outside shots to space the floor for his team.  He was able to effortlessly make a couple of step back threes, as he was able to make a bank shot from downtown late in this game.  He struggled to make three-point shots early on, and he had trouble trying to score when he would run off ball screens to hoist up long-range jumpers, but Duke was able to find his shooting stroke late in this match when his team needed him to score.

Also, he showed an adequate ability to score off the dribble.  Duke doesn’t have elite foot speed, but he is a skilled scorer whose agility and ball handling skills would enable him to draw plenty of fouls upon his defenders to get to the free throw line.  There was one play where he would’ve scored on a dunk off of a drive, but it was waved off, as he didn’t get continuation after having drawn a non-shooting foul earlier.  However, Duke tended to take plenty of rushed, contested layups, and he had trouble scoring in traffic, especially when he would not get foul calls.

He also displayed decent playmaking skills in this game.  Duke tended to throw solid interior passes to find roll men to set up scores for his teammates around the basket.  He also can throw accurate passes off the dribble, and he can get the ball to shooters, as well as find teammates on the break to notch assists.  However, sometimes he would tend to over-dribble, as he lost the ball once, and it also led him to throw a hasty pass while falling out of bounds that got intercepted.  Duke would sometimes throw careless passes that would get picked off, but he also threw a catchable pass that a teammate dropped out of bounds another time.

Plus, he also did a fairly good job of rebounding the basketball.  Duke would chase down balls to get multiple boards on both ends of the floor, and he would tend to bring the ball up after getting defensive rebounds.  However, he was called for committing a loose ball foul after wildly going for an offensive board once.  Early on, he lost a ball while trying to track down a defensive board due to not having great hands on that occasion.

Defensively, he looked to be about average at best.  For the positives, Duke was able to jump on a loose ball to get a steal, and he also deflected a pass out of bounds to nearly get another.  He also was able to contest a deep three to force a miss.  However, he tended to struggle to defend opponents off the dribble.  He would tend to get beat off the dribble, and other times he wouldn’t fight over screens quickly enough, which would usually lead him to commit fouls and allow scores.  On another play, he bit on a pump fake as he trailed his man, and allowed his opponent to score on a drive. 

Overall, Dave Duke didn’t have his best game, but he was able to make an impressive, step back, bank three down the stretch to help seal the win for his team.  He’s not an overwhelmingly athletic guard, but late in this contest, he was able to show good acceleration when handling the ball in the open court to draw late game free throws.  He is a skilled combo guard that can shoot the basketball and play either backcourt position.  Right now, he projects to go in the late first to the second round range for the upcoming draft, and he could end up thriving as a shooting specialist off the bench similar to former veteran guard, Roger Mason in the NBA.

Creighton’s 6-5 senior swingman, Damien Jefferson had a stellar showing, as he scored 26 points on 9 of 13 shooting in his team’s loss to Providence.  He is an athletic, high-motor player that made solid hustle plays on both ends of the court.

Jefferson showed a solid ability to score off the dribble.  He has a strong first step to the hoop, and he can use either hand to finish plays around the basket.  He has a series of dribble moves that he can use to get past his man, and he has good speed, strength, and body control to regularly score and get free throws to help his team.  He also excelled as a low post scorer, as his strength and ability to get deep position enabled him to thrive at scoring and drawing fouls when he would look to score from the block. He also excelled at scoring on hustle plays.  Jefferson would tend to score on quick drives in transition, and he also ran in to score on a tip-in after leaping up to grab an offensive rebound.

Though he flashed the ability to knock down jumpers, he struggled to make outside shots in this game.  Jefferson was able to run off the ball to calmly make a spot-up three off the catch.  However, he missed several other threes that he took from beyond the arc, as he was not able to make them consistently from downtown.

Also, he exhibited adequate playmaking skills.  Though Jefferson didn’t look to pass much, he was able to throw crisp, accurate passes to help his team.  He accurately threw an interior pass to find a roll man to notch an assist, and he will sometimes swing the ball to find open shooters.  However, he had trouble handling the ball when faced with considerable ball pressure once, as he ended up losing the basketball once to commit a turnover. Though he didn’t grab many rebounds in this game, Jefferson was able to leap up to haul in boards on both ends of the floor to help get his fair share of boards.

He also played satisfactory defense.  Jefferson did a great job of playing passing lanes, as he would jump passes to get steals.  He excelled at pouncing upon loose balls, and he also contested a shot off of a drive to force a miss.  However, sometimes he would be too aggressive when defending opponents off the dribble.  On another play, he gave up too much space when defending an opponent in the post to allow a score.

Overall, Damien Jefferson played very well, as he scored 26 points and netted 3 steals to help his team in this game.  He’s put up fairly modest stats this season, and he’s never really been a high volume scorer, and so that might partially explain his lack of draft buzz.  He’s also one of the older prospects in the 2021 draft, so there might not be much upside left for him.  Still, he is an athletic, energetic swingman that excels at making hustle plays, and if things pan out for him, he could end up carving out a career as a defensive specialist in the NBA one day.

Creighton’s 6-5 senior swingman, Denzel Mahoney had been having a solid senior season, so he was expected to play well tonight.  Unfortunately, he did not play well, and he ended up scoring just 5 points on a lousy, 1 of 10 shooting in his team’s loss to Providence.

He really struggled to score on jump shots, as he particularly was ineffective at trying to score on threes or mid-range shots.  He was able to drive to his left to draw free throws once.  He also displayed adequate low post scoring skills, as he was able to get deep position to score on a leaner once, but he missed another time on a fade-away jumper.

He showed off average at best playmaking skills.  Mahoney can make passes off the dribble, as he can drive and kick balls out to shooters to set up scoring chances for them.  However, he was called for setting a moving screen that led him to commit an offensive foul and a turnover, as it wiped a potential assist off the board for him.

Also, Mahoney was able to chase down balls to get his fair share of defensive rebounds in this game.  He also played satisfactory defense.  Mahoney was able to leap up to intercept an entry pass to get a steal.  He also would use his length to actively contest numerous three-point shots to force misses.  He also was able to stay with his man on a drive and funnel his opponent into the help to get another stop for his team.  However, there was one play where he ended up getting beat on a spin move off the dribble, which led him to have to commit a reach-in foul as a result.

Overall, Denzel Mahoney did not play very well in this game, but he is a strong, mobile swingman that showed that he can score and grab rebounds in the post.  He has shot the ball well on the season, but he didn’t make many shots today.  He will need to show teams that he can consistently play well against top-notch competition.  Right now, he may be a borderline second round candidate, but in a favorable scenario, if things break his way, he could perhaps project into a 3 and D role in the NBA someday.

Providence’s 6-6 junior guard, A.J. Reeves looked to be arguably the best athlete in this game, along with Creighton’s Damien Jefferson.  However, Reeves did not shoot the ball very well in his team’s win over Creighton. Reeves’ best play of the game was when he ran the floor to get the ball, and he drove in to score on a thunderous, two-handed slam in transition.  However, he had trouble scoring on spot-up threes, off the dribble, or in the post, and that basket that he made in transition was the only shot he made the entire night.  In this game, he scored just 2 points on 1 of 8 shooting.

On the bright side, he passed and rebounded the ball well.  He threw solid, interior passes, as he can find teammates on the move to notch assists.  However, he was called for traveling after trying to drive to the hoop to commit a turnover. He did a very good job of leaping up to get rebounds on both ends of the floor.  While he was active defensively, he struggled to defend opponents off the dribble, and he ended up committing touch fouls as a result.

Overall, Reeves did not play very well, but he was able to throw down a monster jam early on in this game, as he was able to score on a breakaway that time.  He didn’t shoot the ball very well, though.  Right now, he’s not much of a draft prospect, as he hasn’t really shot the ball very well on the season.  He’ll need to improve his jump shot and shoot better.  In a favorable scenario, he could perhaps project into a 3 and D role in the NBA if things break his way.

Providence’s 6-3 freshman guard, Alyn Breed hadn’t seen the floor very much before getting a start tonight, and he played very well in his team’s win over Creighton.  He excelled as a shooter and scorer in this game.  He excelled at scoring on tough, crafty drives to the hoop, and he also showed range by making both of his three-point shots.  He made a spot-up three from way out, and he also used a crossover move and pulled up to make another from beyond the arc.

He also passed the ball well, and excelled as a rebounder.  Overall, Breed is an agile, skilled combo guard that had a solid all-around game, and he could be a prospect to keep an eye on, especially if he keeps playing well in games.

Creighton’s 6-7 junior forward, Christian Bishop scored 12 points on 6 of 6 shooting in his team’s loss to Providence.  He excelled as a scorer off the dribble and in the post, and he also scored on a roll to the rim.  He also did a good job of rebounding the basketball, as he managed to grab a handful of boards when he was on the floor.

However, he struggled with turnovers, and he also had trouble defending in the post.  He also was quite foul prone in this game.  Overall, he did a great job of scoring the basketball within the playing time he was allotted, but he will need to improve his playmaking and defensive skills, and he will need to improve his outside shot.  Right now, he may not be much of a prospect for the NBA at this moment, and currently, he is basically an undersized big man who might struggle against length and athleticism at higher levels.  On the other hand, if he can take and make more three-point shots in games, he could then be a player to keep an eye on sometime down the road.

I was expecting Providence’s 6-8 senior forward, Noah Horchler to make an immediate impact after having put up solid numbers before transferring away from North Florida as a junior.  However, he has not found much playing time at all this season.

He didn’t play much in his team’s win over Creighton, but he was able to make some hustle plays on both ends of the floor.  Horchler was able to score on a backdoor cut.  He also used his length to successfully challenge a three-point shot, and he also ripped a ball away to help get a steal defensively.  However, he also had trouble defending opponents off the dribble, as he would tend to commit fouls and allow scores.

Overall, Horchler didn’t really have much of an impact in this game, as he scored just 2 points and committed 4 fouls in 10 minutes in his team’s win over Creighton.  He’s not likely to reach the NBA anytime soon, as he hasn’t played much as a senior, and he looked to be only about an average athlete in this game. On the other hand, his production at North Florida combined with his motor suggests that he could compete for a roster spot in the G-League or overseas someday when his collegiate career ends.

Other Notes:

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