PHILADELPHIA (AP) — All that was missing from Doug McDermott’s highlight film was the swish.
Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin had the sound on as he rolled the video on Creighton’s All-American guard. His form, flawless. His shot, eerily quiet.
That silent film made the Bearcats uneasy.
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Before Cronin could point out how the ball seemed to hit nothing but air, guard Cashmere Wright piped up: “He doesn’t even hit the net.”
“That’s when you hit pause and say, `You see what we’re dealing with?'” Cronin said.
The 10th-seeded Bearcats (22-11) are about to find all about the dynamic challenge McDermott presents on Friday here. Few teams this season have found a way to deal with McDermott, who earned first-team All-America honors last season with a dead-on shot that seems to float through the rim. McDermott has busted out of the mostly unknown mid-major sharp shooters to lead the Bluejays (27-7) into the national rankings and a No. 7 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Creighton’s opponents have tried to design defenses to curb his production but haven’t had much success. He won Missouri Valley Conference player of the years honors for the second straight season and became Creighton’s career leading scorer. He scored 41 points on 15 of 18 shooting against fellow tournament team Wichita State and is averaging 23.1 points.
McDermott is creative when it comes to working for position in the post, and he’s always among the first players down the court in transition. He became the first Creighton player since 1990 to score 30 in consecutive games — then repeated that feat two more times.
“He’s a real problem,” Cronin said. “He can beat you by himself. Our guys see a lot of great players, but we have not seen a scorer of his magnitude.”
This could be the last time college fans can watch McDermott in the tournament. NBA scouts have McDermott on the radar as a projected late first-round pick if he declares for the draft following the end of his junior season.
McDermott, a 6-8 forward, heard Creighton fans in the sellout crowd of 18,613 chant “One more year! One more year!” as the Bluejays wrapped up their MVC championship. After averaging nearly 23 points and eight rebounds last season while leading Creighton to the third round of the NCAA tournament, McDermott wants to take the Bluejays at least into the second weekend, making the kind of tournament run similar to fellow mid-majors as VCU and George Mason. He can bulk up his NBA credentials with big games on the biggest stage — even as he insists the draft is a worry for another day.
McDermott was lightly recruited out of high school and followed his dad, coach Greg McDermott, from Iowa to Omaha, Neb. There’s no doubt son makes father a better coach. But Greg McDermott said he’ll collect all the data Doug needed to make a decision just as he would for any other prospect.
“This is Doug’s decision,” Greg McDermott said. “He has to do what’s best for him at this point in his life, and Doug has said it before, it’s always been a dream of his to go to the NBA, like I think most basketball players. But at the same time, he’s living the dream playing basketball for Creighton University.”
Should McDermott bolt early, he won’t follow Creighton to the Big East. The Bluejays-Bearcats matchup is more than a second-round game. It’s a preview of Big East past vs. future.
Creighton, Butler and Xavier are set to shed the mid-major label and join Big East holdovers Providence, Georgetown, St. John’s, Villanova, Marquette, Seton Hall and DePaul next season. Cincinnati is staying behind in the football-based, soon-to-be-former Big East.
For the Bluejays, that means saying goodbye to Drake and Bradley and hello to the Hoyas and Wildcats. They’ll swap the MVC for a postseason tournament at Madison Square Garden.
“I mean, you can’t say no to that when that offer comes because not a lot of schools could say they could join the Big East Conference,” Doug McDermott said. “It’s awesome for our school, awesome for our athletics. I know all of our fans are excited, as we are, as well. Having Georgetown, Marquette, teams like that come to town, you can’t pass up.”
Cronin has no desire to get all misty-eyed reminiscing about Cincinnati’s brief run in the Big East. Not only is he trying to stop McDermott from scoring, he needs to find a way to get the Bearcats some points of their own.
The Bearcats, who don’t have a new conference yet, play defense and rebound well enough to stay in games, but their only consistent scorer is Sean Kilpatrick, who averaged 16.9 points and can make shots from anywhere. Teams tend to shade defenses his way, making it tough on him.
He has little help from a front line that struggles handling the ball. There’s nobody who can catch a pass inside, turn and score or get fouled. So that leaves it to Kilpatrick, Wright and JaQuon Parker. When Wright, who battled injuries this season, isn’t shooting well, they struggle to score 50.
“We all needed to pick it up,” Parker said. “(Coach Cronin) has just been telling everybody whenever you’re open, shoot it. If you’ve got a drive, take it. So whenever you’ve got something going, just be confident in what you’re going to do and just do it.”