Creighton-Xavier Preview

The Associated Press

(AP) -- - Big East co-leader Creighton will clinch the top seed in the conference tournament if it wins out, but it knows a 3-0 finish won't come easy.

The ninth-ranked Bluejays (23-4, 13-2) play their last two road games against opponents trying to raise their profiles for the postseason.

First up is Xavier on Saturday. The Musketeers (19-9, 9-6) are looking for help from their fans, selling standing-room tickets for the first time since the Cintas Center in Cincinnati opened in 2000. They've won 15 of 16 at home.

''Their crowd is going to be into it, and we have to be ready to match that,'' Creighton's Doug McDermott said. ''We have to match the intensity. They're going to sell it out, and that place historically has been a tough place to play.''

Creighton will visit Georgetown on Tuesday before closing the regular season at home against Providence on March 8. Villanova, tied with the Bluejays for the Big East lead, also faces Xavier and Georgetown after hosting Marquette on Sunday.

Creighton will be the top seed in the conference tournament should the teams remain tied by virtue of its head-to-head sweep of the Wildcats.

"We've put ourselves in a good position, and now we've got to see what we can do with it," coach Greg McDermott said. "Obviously, we're going to play three teams that are fighting for their NCAA tournament lives. And those are scary teams to play because they're going to throw everything but the kitchen table at you."

The Bluejays beat Xavier 95-89 and Georgetown 76-63 in Omaha last month and have won four straight since a road loss to St. John's. They escaped with a 72-71 home win over Seton Hall last Sunday.

''Nothing has been easy,'' Greg McDermott said. ''You can't have a game where you don't play at your best because, if you do, you're going to get beat. If you're not quite yourselves, you try to figure out a way to hang on. The Seton Hall game was proof of that. We weren't exactly as good as we'd like to be.''

Doug McDermott, the nation's leading scorer, has put up at least 25 points in seven straight games. He scored 35 in the first game against Xavier, and he knows he'll be a marked man by the Musketeers and their fans.

''I love it,'' he said. ''It's cool, just having everyone against you.''

The Bluejays were the dominant team in the Missouri Valley Conference the last 10 years, and they often represented the biggest challenge on opponents' schedules. They were something of an unknown early in their first season in the reconstituted Big East.

''Now that we're coming down to the end, and people have seen us once, and now they're seeing us for a second time, people want a piece of us a little more,'' guard Isaiah Zierden said. ''At the beginning, it was, 'OK, Creighton, they were in the Valley. I think we can beat them.' Now they know what we can bring to the table, so it's a bigger game.''

Xavier has won four of six since a three-game skid, with its latest victory especially significant. Jalen Reynolds had season highs of 17 points and 16 rebounds in Tuesday's 65-53 win at St. John's that tied the Musketeers for third place in the conference.

Reynolds went scoreless in three minutes against the Bluejays earlier this season as Creighton overcame an early 12-0 deficit and 27 points from Xavier's top scorer, Semaj Christon.

The Musketeers set season highs for 3-point attempts (26) and makes (12) in that loss.

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