There is more to Creighton’s season-ending loss Sunday at the hands of Duke in the Round of 32 of the NCAA tournament. It not only ends a season, but ends at least one era and possibly a second simultaneously. The Bluejays will now move on to become members of the New Big East and leave the Missouri Valley Conference behind, but what remains to be seen is whether or not that move will take place with star Doug McDermott in a Creighton uniform.
McDermott had close to a double-double with 21 points and nine rebounds Sunday in what could be his final collegiate game, but shot just 4-of-16 from the floor. The Blue Devils did well to slow him and the rest of the Creighton offense down from the highs it had been experiencing in recent weeks, holding the Bluejays to just 30 percent shooting.
But will McDermott leave for the NBA draft?
Draft Express projects him as the No. 37 overall in June’s draft, meaning he would be part of the second round and not guaranteed an NBA contract. Last season, we saw another mid-major star, Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum, spurn the draft and return to school. He had a strong beginning of the season before injuring his foot, but he is still slated to be selected in the first round of this year’s draft.
McDermott, as you’ll remember, is coached at Creighton by his father, Greg. Could that have any influence on the younger McDermott’s decision? There would be few things more helpful to the Creighton program than to have one of the nation’s best players usher the team into a new conference, especially considering the two key pieces they could lose.
Center Gregory Echenique will have graduated. Grant Gibbs could conceivably apply for a sixth year of eligibility but the chances of that happening are likely slim and altogether unpredictable. There is one thing for certain, though. This Creighton team will be more prepared to take on the New Big East with McDermott in the Bluejays’ starting lineup.
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.