Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Doug McDermott's Playing Out Of His Mind

#22 Creighton 76, Nebraska 66
Every player has a down night from time to time, but I'm still waiting for one from Doug McDermott. After he was the breakout star for the US team at the U-19 World Championships, he's been lights out this season. If we discount the season opener against North Carolina A&T that McDermott only played 17 minutes in because his team was on their way to a 32 point win and didn't need him, McDermott has had a minimum of 21 points in every game this season. What's more amazing is that his worst shooting performance in any of those games was a 58.8 eFG% in their game at San Diego State. For the season he's got a video game-like 69.6 eFG%. At the early stages of the season with the sample sizes small, McDermott is only 15th in the nation with that eFG%, but the fact that everybody knows he's looking to shoot whenever he gets the ball and organizes their defense to stop him and he still never has an off day is remarkable. He deserves some All-American buzz. He just needs a big win on national television to get his name out there to casual sports fans and sports writers.

Creighton, as a team, is actually leading the nation in team eFG% (60.9%), and they're now 7-0 with wins over San Diego State, Nebraska, Iowa and UAB. Their Sagarin ELO_CHESS is actually 2nd in the nation right now. That said, their shooting will cool off at least a little bit, and they'll eventually lose some games. They were my preseason pick to win the Missouri Valley, and they remain the favorite, but there's not much of a gap between them, Wichita State, Northern Iowa and Missouri State. The conference is playing well, though, and likely will be a multi-bid conference.

Nebraska, meanwhile, continues to struggle. They already lost to Wake Forest and Oregon, and their best win of the season was in overtime against a weak USC team. More than anything they're struggling to find offense. Lance Jeter was a good player, but not that good. Nebraska has more talent than they're showing. Eventually I expect them to turn things around, though it might not be in time to make a serious run at an at-large bid.

Nebraska plays Florida Gulf Coast tomorrow, and then plays on the road at TCU on Saturday. After that it will be a couple of patsies before they open up the Big Ten regular season with Wisconsin on December 27th. Creighton plays next on Saturday, at St. Joe's. They also will play Northwestern and Tulsa before beginning conference play.

San Diego State 64, #23 California 63
Chase Tapley has grown into the role of go-to scorer for San Diego State since the departure of Kawhi Leonard. Not only did he lead all scorers with 25 points here, but he also hit San Diego State's final two shots from the field, and also hit two free throws with nine seconds to go that turned out to be the difference in the game, since Allen Crabbe came down and hit a three for California just before the buzzer. Tapley has doubled last year's scoring to 17.2 points per game this season, and he's hitting a ridiculous 50.9% behind the arc.

San Diego State lost a lot of experience, but they've had a ton of close games already this season. They've had six games this season decided by four points or less. The fact that they've won five of those six games means that they've been a little lucky, which is why their Sagarin ELO_CHESS is 10th while their Sagarin PREDICTOR is 61st. I think in the end they'll be somewhere between those two ratings. They're a good team, and they're getting lots of good experience early in this season, but in no way are they are a certainty to go Dancing in March. Their schedule eases up for the next few weeks, though. They probably won't be tested against until they open up Mountain West play on January 14th against UNLV.

California fans will view this game as a big missed opportunity. This was their first game since Richard Solomon was suspended indefinitely, and Mike Montgomery went with what was basically a six man rotation. The players, saving their energy, ended up getting out-worked by a deeper San Diego State team. It's unclear what the situation is with Solomon, and when he'll be back. But there's no question California needs him. There won't be a large margin of error in the Pac-12 this season considering how weak the conference is (arguably the weakest BCS conference in a decade). Cal is now 6-2 without any bad losses, but without any real good wins either (Georgia is the closest thing to a true quality win). Their next decent opponent will be UC-Santa Barbara on December 19th. They also have a road game at UNLV on December 23rd.

Maryland 78, Notre Dame 71
It was obvious that Notre Dame would be severely affected by the loss of Tim Abromaitis. They've played three games since he was lost for the season: one was against a cupcake, and the other two have been losses. Maryland, despite not being a particularly good team, is a tough match-up for Notre Dame. The Irish just really don't have anybody that can keep up defensively with Terrell Stoglin, who finished with 31 points on 11-for-20 shooting.

But as good as Stoglin is, Maryland just isn't that good of a team. This loss is just more evidence that Notre Dame isn't going to have it this year. That said, all is not lost for Irish fans. The fact is that this team is young. Even if Abromaitis can't get another year of eligibility, the fact is that the team only has one other regular player in his final year of eligibility (Scott Martin). Young players like Jerian Grant and true freshman Pat Connaughton have really played well. Grant is listed as a "sophomore", but he redshirted last year. Notre Dame treats eligibility weird in that they only list the year a player is in school - it's assumed that unless he transfers, Grant will get a fifth year of eligibility after his "senior" season.

The point is, this season for Notre Dame will be about developing these young players. It's hard to see them having a lot of success in Big East play. Now having lost four of five, they should get a breather the next couple of weeks as they enter Cupcake City. A game against Indiana on December 17th is the only non-pushover on their schedule left before opening Big East play on December 27th against Pittsburgh.

This is the second straight feisty game from Maryland, coming off a narrow loss to Illinois. They're short on depth of talent, but Stoglin is a good enough player to deliver a couple of good wins. Considering how bad the bottom of the ACC is, I could see them finishing as high as seventh or eighth, which isn't a bad place for Mark Turgeon to begin considering the recruiting class he's putting together for next season. The Terrapins now head into Cupcake City themselves for a few weeks. Their next quality opponent will be their ACC opener at NC State on January 8th.

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