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USATSI

Big East preseason Player of the Year Marcus Zegarowski scored a season-high 25 points Saturday to fuel No. 19 Creighton to a blowout win over No. 5 Villanova 86-70. It was a startling statement sent by the Bluejays as they rained down 3s, dominated the paint and, in the process, managed to heave a wrench into the conference race in the final weeks of the regular season.

The performance came only hours after Villanova earned a No. 2 seed from the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee in its annual in-season bracket preview, which gives a snapshot of where teams stand if the season were to end today. The committee announces a total of four seeds from each region -- so 16 teams overall -- and Creighton was conspicuously missing from that bunch on Saturday.

If Creighton didn't take that exclusion as a slight, it had a funny way of showing it. Zegarowski scored 17 first-half points as the Bluejays came out firing. They led for nearly 32 minutes of game action in a dominant showing. As a team, they shot 12-of-26 from 3-point range (compared to Villanova's 10-of-32 outing) and outscored Villanova in the paint 36-20 to top it off.

It's Creighton's third consecutive win and sixth in its last seven as it crept within striking distance to Villanova at the front of the Big East race. It's Villanova second loss in its last four games, however, dropping it to 5-2 since its nearly month-long hiatus that spanned some of December and January because of COVID issues.

The Wildcats have plenty of juice to be a force this postseason, and still have the goods to carry the league -- prime example being their 32-point shellacking of Marquette earlier in the week. But a loss to Creighton -- and by such a substantial margin -- won't do themselves any postseason favors as they teeter on the 2 line (the No. 6 overall team as of Saturday morning by the selection committee) with a month left until the tournament.