The Chase for 180: Doug McDermott’s tough night

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Who is the best shooter in the country?

It’s a tough question to answer, isn’t it? Does being a “shooter” simply mean merely being a high-level marksman from beyond the arc? Can a player who thrives in the mid-range but rarely ventures out into three-point land be eligible? How heavily should we be valuing stats like efficiency and effective field goal percentage when taking all of this into account?

One number that we like to use is “180″. How do you become a 180 shooter? By shooting 50% or better from the field overall, 40% or better from three and at least 90% from the charity stripe. From this point forward we’ll track this until the end of the regular season, providing weekly updates as well as a look into how some of the nation’s best find (and connect on) their quality looks. 

As noted in the first edition of this series in early November, Creighton senior forward Doug McDermott has been one of the nation’s best all-around shooters throughout his career. As a junior the national Player of the Year candidate shot 54.8% from the field, 49.0% from beyond the arc and 87.5% from the foul line, and he’s within striking distance of each number as a senior.

Despite seeing his shot percentage (the percentage of a team’s shots that a player attempts) increase from 28.4% as a freshman to 35.2% as a senior, McDermott’s maintained a true shooting percentage of over 60% (over 67% in his sophomore and junior seasons) throughout his career. To say the least, the 6-foot-8 McDermott can shoot the basketball. Those numbers are what made Sunday’s outing, a 2-for-12 (seven points) night in a 60-53 loss to George Washington in the third-place game of the Wooden Legacy, so surprising.

The Colonials were able to use their length and various defensive looks to make things difficult for the All-American, with his two makes being right at the rim. With players such as Isaiah Armwood capable of making life uncomfortable, many of the 12 shots McDermott attempted were of the challenged variety. Five of McDermott’s ten misses were in the painted area, with the other five coming from beyond the arc (four of those were at the top of the key).

One of McDermott’s greatest strengths is his ability to make shots from anywhere on the floor, with Creighton’s offense placing him in advantageous positions, and George Washington was able to essentially limit him to shooting from two areas of the floor*. By comparison, in Creighton’s 86-80 loss to San Diego State two nights prior McDermott shot 11-for-18 from the field (30 points) with those 18 attempts coming from all over the floor. Like George Washington, San Diego State has multiple players with the length needed to distract shooters.

But unlike the Colonials the Aztecs weren’t particularly successful in limiting where McDermott attempted his shots, and for a shooter where their shots are taken is of high importance. How will this affect “Dougie McBuckets” going forward, especially once the Bluejays begin conference play in their inaugural season in the Big East? Opponents will look to keep him from moving freely about the floor, but as McDermott (with the help of his teammates, of course) has shown throughout his career that’s an objective easier said than done.

* – info found thanks to shot charts

This Week’s Top Ten (note: players must be eligible to be ranked in all three shooting categories)

1) G Austin Tillotson (Colgate)
2013-14 percentages: 66.0% FG, 64.3% 3PT, 88.0% FT
True shooting %: 76.8%
Shot %: 18.6%

Playing his first season at Colgate after sitting out the 2012-13 season due to NCAA transfer rules (he began his career at Monmouth), Tillotson’s been a valuable piece for the 4-2 Raiders. While he isn’t a primary scoring option if looking at shot percentage (Ethan Jacobs and Murphy Burnatowsky are the leaders in this area), Tillotson’s made the most of his opportunities.

2) G Austin Hamilton (Elon)
63.8%, 61.1%, 77.3%
True shooting %: 76.6
Shot %: 16.0

Like Tillotson, Hamilton’s made up for quantity (sixth on the team in shot percentage) with quality, as he’s currently the clear team leader in both true shooting and effective field goal (75.5%) percentages. But based upon his numbers in those categories during his freshman (52.3%; 48.7%) and sophomore (44.3, 40.8) you have to wonder if those percentages will drop as the season wears on.

3) G Anthony Brown (Stanford)
57.1%, 59.4%, 80.6%
True shooting %: 72.0
Shot %: 19.7

With Andy Brown forced to return due to a fourth major knee injury, the Cardinal needed someone to step up in his absence. Enter Anthony Brown (no relation), who missed all of last season due to a hip injury. Brown averaged just over eight points per game in each of his first two seasons on The Farm; he’s up to 16.5 ppg as a redshirt junior.

4) Seth Hinrichs (Lafayette)
54.8%, 50.0%, 91.7%
True shooting %: 70.2%
Shot %: 32.6%

Of the players on this list Hinrichs is third in scoring with an average of 22.3 points per game. After seeing his true shooting percentage drop nearly five percentage points from his freshman to sophomore season Hinrichs is up over the 70-percent mark in that category, and he’s the only player on this list above each of the 50/40/90 benchmarks.

5) F Rodney Hood (Duke)
58.9%, 53.6%, 82.5%
True shooting %: 74.0
Shot %: 22.3

There were some who questioned just how much of an impact Hood could have based upon his one season at Mississippi State. There’s no further need to do so, as Hood’s proven himself to be a much-improved offensive player. Of course, it helps to play alongside Jabari Parker with head coach Mike Krzyzewski devising strategies that lead to quality scoring opportunities.

6) Nic Moore (SMU)
56.0%, 60.0%, 77.8%
True shooting %: 74.8
Shot %: 19.7

Moore was expected to be an immediate impact transfer for the Mustangs, as he provides them with the lead guard they were missing in 2012-13. And in comparing his start to this season with his freshman campaign at Illinois State, Moore’s true shooting and effective FG% (74.0) numbers have increased dramatically (56.3% and 50.4% as a freshman).

7) G Zach LaVine (UCLA)
62.3%, 55.9%, 71.4%
True shooting %: 77.9
Shot %: 21.9

One of two freshmen on the list, LaVine’s proven to be one of the nation’s best bench scorers due to his ability to score from just about anywhere on the floor. And with Kyle Anderson entrusted with running the show, LaVine can focus primarily on hunting looks within Steve Alford’s offense. But much of the early success has come against an underwhelming slate, so we’ll learn more about LaVine on Saturday when the Bruins visit Missouri.

8) G Shabazz Napier (UConn)
50.6%, 60.0%, 76.9%
True shooting %: 63.3
Shot %: 22.7

Given how much the Huskies rely on Napier, it’s a bit surprising to see that he’s shooting the ball so well thus far. He’s ranked third on the team in shot percentage (behind DeAndre Daniels and Omar Calhoun), and Napier’s true shooting and effective field goal (59.4%) percentages are the best of his career by a decent margin.

9) F Cleveland Melvin (DePaul)
53.7%, 57.1%, 75.0%
True shooting %: 65.3
Shot %: 27.0

The Blue Demons have struggled to break through in the wins department, but in the senior forward Melvin they’ve got a player who may be a bit undervalued. Melvin’s shot percentage is three points lower than in any of his three seasons prior, but that’s worked to his advantage as he’s taking better shots and making them at a higher clip. Will that continue when Big East play begins?

10) F Doug McDermott (Creighton)
50.0%, 44.2%, 85.7%
True shooting %: 62.4
Shot %: 35.2

See above.

Five shooters who rarely attempt shots inside of the three-point line 

1) F Scott King (Stony Brook): Of the 17 field goals King has attempted, 14 have been three pointers with the sophomore making nine.

2) G Jeff Elorriaga (Boise State): 30 of Elorriaga’s 35 field goal attempts have come from beyond the arc, and he’s made 19 of those shots.

3) Jack Flournoy (Northern Kentucky): Flournoy is shooting 60% from three and just 4-for-11 (36.4%) inside of the arc.

4) G Naz Long (Iowa State): Long’s been a revelation for the Cyclones after playing sparingly last season, with 32 of his 37 shot attempts (18 makes) being three-pointers.

5) Riley Grabau (Wyoming): Second in the nation in three-point percentage (64.9%), Grabau’s made just 38.9% of his two-point shot attempts.

Bill Self’s least impressive Kansas team is 40 minutes away from the Final Four

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OMAHA, Neb. — Kansas is vulnerable, exploitable and limited. The Jayhawks have no depth, are without a superstar and possess a middling defense.

They are Bill Self’s worst team.

And they have won the Big 12 regular season and tournament titles, secured a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament and are a win away from the Final Four.

The Jayhawks shrugged off some late sluggishness to dispatch No. 5 Clemson 80-76 on Friday night in the Midwest Regional semifinal at CenturyLink Center to put themselves in the Elite Eight for the third-consecutive year with a date with Duke on Sunday.

This year has often been about what this Kansas team couldn’t do after the losses of Frank Mason and Josh Jackson and then the ineligibility of Billy Preston. Early-season losses to Washington and Arizona State, the latter at the usually impregnable Allen Fieldhouse, were the proof this Kansas team might finally be the one not to win a Big 12 title. Then Texas Tech beat the hell out of them in Lawrence and it looked like the streak was on its way to over.

Devonte Graham was a poor imitation of Mason.  Svi Mykhailiuk was too timid and inconsistent. Udoka Azubuike was foul-prone and unproven. The supporting cast was a rung or two lower than a team with national-championship aspirations could carry.

Those problems are real. Those issues are troublesome. Those deficiencies are critical.

In spite of it all, Kansas won the Big 12 by two games, ripped through the conference tournament and are on the doorstep of playing for a national championship.

Bill Self’s worst team has a chance to be the country’s best.

“I’m so proud of our team because I think of all the teams that we’ve had here, this would be the team that everyone would have thought would not be in this game,” Self said Friday. “And so, hey, we’re in this game. We’ve got a legitimate shot to go to San Antonio.

“You prepare the whole year to play in this game. So I think we’ll play with no what-ifs. I think we’ll let it go. I think we’ll be as loose as we can be and still you’ve got to make shots.

“I’d like nothing more than to take my team this year to San Antonio and let them experience what the best of the best is in college basketball.”

The key to Kansas’ season has been embracing its shortcomings. Azubuike is the only big they’ve got that can give them both scoring and defense consistently. It’s a 180 for a program that’s featured Thomas Robinson, Cole Aldrich, the Morris Twins and Jeff Withey. Kansas almost always plays through its bigs. This year, they’re playing around one.

“I never played like this,” Self said. “It just goes against the grain from the teams that we’ve had in the past, but these guys have figured it out. They’ve learned how to play through it, and we’ve had unbelievable guard play and unbelievable leadership from our vets, and had some guys have some outstanding seasons.

“There’s less margin for error but these guys have certainly rallied around that.”

Kansas’ shooting is why they’re in the Elite Eight. The Jayhawks are 10th nationally with a 40.5 3-point shooting percentage. It’s Azubuiike, though, that makes so many of those good looks possible. The man makes 77.5 percent of his shots from the floor. That demands defensive attention. And that means defenders aren’t shadowing shooters.

“He’s a guy we can throw the ball into and he can go get a basket,” Malik Newman, who had a team-high 17 points Friday, said. “I think his passing is underrated. That’s another big key for him. When we’re able to throw it in and the defense collapses on him, he is able to kick it out and find an open shooter.

“It just opens up the whole game for us.”

It’s opened up a whole world of possibility for Kansas and a world of hurt for their opponents.

“Most teams have somebody that you can kind of scratch off,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell mused. “So one of the reasons they’re so hard to guard is they’ve got a center that scores if he catches it deep, and he’s bigger than everybody on the floor so he does get position. And then you’ve got guards that can all make shots and drive by you and they play with great spacing.”

Now, Kansas isn’t full of slouches. Graham was the Big 12 player of the year, Azubuike’s talent was apparent even if it was raw before injury robbed him of a freshman year. Mykhailiuk is all-Big 12 while Malik Newman and LaGerald Vick were heralded prospects. Still, there’s not a lottery pick among them. No Andrew Wiggins or Ben McLemore or Josh Jackson. The fit is strange and the depth is zilch.

All that has eroded Kansas’ wiggle room for mistakes, but when they operate within their comfort zone, it can make for great offense. The first two minutes of the second half when the Jayhawks hit back-to-back 3s was a thing of beauty, ball movement and shot making. It was the blueprint for a buzzsaw.

Maybe Self’s worst team is pretty damn good.

Keenan Evans closes strong (again) as Texas Tech advances past Purdue to Elite Eight

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BOSTON — Second Half Keenan struck again on Friday night.

Keenan Evans scored 12 of his 16 points and handed out three of his four assists in the final 10 minutes of the game as No. 3-seed Texas Tech held off No. 2-seed Purdue, 78-65. Zach Smith and Justin Gray paced Tech early, combining for 26 points that helped the Red Raiders build a lead that reached as high as nine before Evans went into takeover mode. Zhaire Smith added 13 points of his own, while the Red Raiders forced 17 Purdue turnovers.

And with that, Texas Tech will to advance past the Sweet 16 for the first time since … ever.

This is uncharted territory for for the Red Raider program that has never been to an Elite Eight and will be playing for their first-ever trip to the Final Four.

“To build a program there has to be a lot of firsts so myself and Keenan have only been together for two years, so we’ve never been to the Elite Eight in two years,” Beard said. “That’s more accurate.”

It’s also fitting, really.

Because it more or less sums up what makes this Texas Tech program so interesting.

On a night where their three-leading scorers never really got going, the Red Raiders advanced on the stretch of two things: Their defense, and the fact that they can stay in a game on the nights when their best players don’t play their best.

With just over 10 minutes left in the game, when Purdue was getting ready to make one final run at advancing to the Elite Eight, is when Evans took over. And there’s no question about it: He closed out this game. Everything that the Red Raiders got on the offensive end of the floor came through Evans down the stretch, even the stuff that doesn’t show up in the score book; for example, the Red Raiders executed a pick-and-roll to perfection with three minutes left, but the lob that Evans threw to Zach Smith ended up as a missed dunk that Zhaire Smith was able to put right back in. Evans doesn’t get the assist, but he made that bucket possible.

I saw all that to say this: With 10 minutes left, the three leading scorers in the Tech program — Evans, Zhaire Smith and Jarrett Culver — were a combined 4-for-16 from the floor with just 11 points.

And Texas Tech held a 50-41 lead. If Evans is Texas Tech’s closer, this was a save that he earned with a three-run lead.

“It’s our identity,” Beard said. “We have a lot of faith in our whole roster, we use a lot of different guys and tonight was fitting. That is the way we have played all year.”

If that doesn’t sum up Chris Beard’s program, I don’t know what does.

No. 2 Duke goes inside to defeat No. 11 Syracuse

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OMAHA, Neb. — Second-seeded Duke made just 5 of its 26 3-point attempts against No. 11 Syracuse on Friday in the two ACC programs’ Sweet 16 matchup.

So the Blue Devils just went inside.

Marvin Bagley III and Wendel Carter, Jr. both had big games to help the Blue Devils outlast the Orange, 69-65, to put themselves in the Elite Eight on Sunday against top-seeded Kansas.

“This was a heck of a game,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “I thought both teams played their hearts out. A great game to win, a really difficult game to lose, because Syracuse played such winning basketball.”

While Duke couldn’t beat the zone that took Syracuse from the First Four to the second weekend with its outside shooting, its two big underclassmen provided plenty of production. Bagley had 22 points and eight rebounds while Carter added 14 points and 12 boards.

“It was a hard fought game. We knew they were going to compete every second of the game,” Bagley said, “and we just tried to compete as well. We had a little point in the game where we started turning it over, and things weren’t going our way, but we stayed tough mentally and we finished it out.”

Bagley was on the receiving end of a number of lobs behind the Syracuse zone that helped the Duke offense stay out in front.

“We practiced it all week,” Bagley said. “We try to look for different things and different ways to score against that zone, and we did a great job at that and got the win.”

Tyus Battle had 19 points to lead the Orange. Oshae Brissett added 15 points and seven boards while Marek Dolezaj had 13 points.

Syracuse shot 53.8 percent from the floor in the second half while Duke shot 36.4 percent (and 11.1 percent from distance), but it wasn’t enough to overcome the Orange’s 16 turnovers or Duke’s 17 second-chance points.

Grayson Allen had 15 points and eight assists for Duke. The Blue Devils had 32 points in the paint.

Duke will now turn its attention to the Jayhawks, who defeated Clemson earlier Friday to make it to their third-straight Elite Eight. The game will tipoff Sunday at 5:05 p.m. (ET).

“We just got to come out ready to play from the beginning,” Bagley said. “We were kind of slacking in this game. I think we’ll be ready for that game. Everybody’s going to be up. We should be coming out strong.”

VIDEO: Allen-to-Bagley oop beats the Syracuse zone

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Usually, you’ve got to shoot a team out of a zone.

Duke might be able to dunk Syracuse out of it.

Grayson Allen and Marvin Bagley connected for a beautiful alley-oop Friday in the second half of the Blue Devils’ Sweet 16 contest against the Orange.

That will work as a zone-buster.

VIDEO: Duke slaps the floor on defense…while playing zone

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Slapping the floor on defense has its advocates and its detractors.

Some applaud the old-school, hard-nosed nature of putting hand to floor. For others, its a bit corny.

What everyone agrees on is that you don’t drop a floor slap if you’re playing zone.

Unless you’re Duke, apparently.

Presumably, the whole point of slapping the floor is to psyche yourself and intimidate your opponent with aggressive man-to-man defense. Not sit-back-and-guard-this-spot-whether-there’s-a-guy-there-or-not defense.

C’mon, Duke. You’re making it too easy for your haters.