Providence-Creighton Preview

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) – It’s been a season of no regrets for Doug McDermott, even with Creighton unable to win the Big East title following a pair of losses in the past week.

The 13th-ranked Bluejays look to avoid heading into the conference tournament on their first three-game skid of the season when McDermott plays for the last time in front of the home crowd Saturday night against Providence.

McDermott said he’s never second-guessed his decision to hold off on the NBA so he could play his senior season for his father-coach, Greg McDermott.

He’s answered naysayers who predicted he wouldn’t be tough enough for the Big East. The fact is, he’s never been better.

The two-time first-team All-American has added to his offensive repertoire and is the nation’s leading scorer. He is considered the front-runner for the Wooden Award as college basketball’s best player and has become one of the top 10 scorers in history while keeping the Bluejays (23-6, 13-4) on track for their highest NCAA tournament seed.

”When college is over, I’ll definitely realize how special it was,” McDermott said in an interview with The Associated Press. ”I’m just living in the moment right now. If I were the national player of the year, that would be really cool, something that has never been in my wildest dreams. Everything is a bonus from here on out.”

McDermott was the premier player in the Missouri Valley Conference as a sophomore and junior. With nothing left to prove in the MVC, he said he probably would have declared for the draft last year if Creighton hadn’t accepted an invitation to join the reconstituted Big East.

He was projected to be a middle- to late first-round pick if he had turned pro, and his decision to stay in school was a calculated risk. It’s turned out he’s probably enhanced his draft stock. His scoring averages have improved from 22.9 points a game as a sophomore and 23.2 as a junior to 25.9 this season.

”It’s really incredible that someone who has achieved at the level he’s achieved at has been able to continue to add things to his game,” Greg McDermott said. ”That’s difficult to do when you’re on top. Sometimes the subtle changes don’t really show up in your game. In Doug’s case, he’s made noticeable improvements to his game each year.”

McDermott has long complemented his 45.5 percent career 3-point shooting with crafty moves in the post. This season he has added to his mid-range game with a reliable fade-away jumper.

McDermott has scored 30 or more points nine times this season and has hit three game-winning shots. He went into Tuesday’s game at Georgetown having scored 25 or more points in eight straight, but had 22 in the 75-63 loss.

That defeat enabled No. 6 Villanova to win the Big East title outright Thursday. Creighton, however, did beat the Wildcats twice head-to-head by a combined 49 points.

McDermott has passed Danny Manning for No. 9 on the all-time scoring list and with 2,966 is seven behind Oscar Robertson. McDermott brushes off discussion about where he’ll finish. He said it’s all about where the team finishes. The Bluejays have never been higher than a No. 6 NCAA seed or advanced past the round of 32.

”We want to go further than last year. That’s my main goal,” he said. ”So I think anything less than that would be, in my mind, disappointing. I just want to carry this team as far as we can go.”

Some may have thought Providence (20-10, 10-7) was out of contention for making the NCAA tournament, but Bryce Cotton and his teammates aren’t listening.

Cotton scored 25 points to help the Friars to a critical 81-80 double-overtime victory against Marquette on Tuesday night. A senior who was playing in his final home game, Cotton played 50 minutes for the fourth time this season. He did more than just score, handing out nine assists and pulling down seven rebounds.

”He was unbelievable,” coach Ed Cooley said following his team’s third straight win.

Cooley didn’t talk about his team’s NCAA tournament prospects after Providence reached 20 victories for the first time since 2003-04. He knows that another major test lies ahead Saturday night followed by the Big East tournament, where the Friars have earned a bye into the quarterfinals.

"When you look at the middle of our conference, it is so, so, so competitive," Cooley said. "… I think it’s one of the toughest, if not the toughest, middle-of-the-conference conferences in the country."

Creighton will have revenge on its mind after losing 81-68 at Providence on Jan. 18. Cotton played all 40 minutes and had 23 points, while McDermott scored 21.

The Bluejays shot a season-worst 21.1 percent (4 of 19) from 3-point range.