Creighton's Maurice Watson gives chase to Villanova's Josh Hart during the teams' meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, last season. (AP Photo/John Peterson)
The New Year's Eve party starts early in Omaha when top-ranked Villanova meets No. 10 Creighton at CenturyLink Center.
Villanova (13-0, 1-0 Big East) has won 19 straight games and is the first defending national champion to come to town since 1946. Creighton (13-0, 1-0) is off to its best start since 1942-43 and has the pieces in place to make a a deep NCAA Tournament run.
Villanova's Josh Hart is a leading candidate for national player of the year and is scoring 20.5 points a game.
Creighton's Maurice Watson Jr. leads the nation with 9.1 assists a game and is one of the country's most exciting players.
"It's going to be a special day," Bluejays coach Greg McDermott said. "I think the place will be hopping. I hope it's hopping. We need a win. We have to protect our home court, and it's a great opportunity for us."
Creighton is 0-11 all-time against opponents ranked in the top three, and it lost to DePaul in 1980 in its only meeting against a No. 1 team.
The Bluejays have lost four in a row to Villanova, which comes in off a 68-65 win over DePaul. The Wildcats are accustomed to getting everyone's best shot.
"We're not easily rattled," Hart said. "We're very tough-minded. It's been that way for the past couple of years. We know the position that we are in. We like that position. We'd rather have it that way than the other way around."
Creighton has played some memorable games in McDermott's seven seasons, notably back when the Bluejays squared off with Wichita State in the Missouri Valley Conference. Creighton joined the reconfigured Big East in 2013.
"If I had told you five years ago we're going to play the No. 1 in the country, we're going to be ranked No. 9 (in coaches' poll), we're going to be in the Big East, you would have told me I'm crazy," McDermott said.
Saturday's matchup, he said, validates the resources the school and boosters have poured into the program and facilities.
"Is it as big a game as playing Wichita State for a conference championship? I don't know about that. That was pretty cool as well," McDermott said. "But to end the year 2016, for our fans, it's going to be incredible."