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 CBSSports.com 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.

Battle 4 Atlantis title proves Syracuse will be relevant this season

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Michael Gbinije scored 20 points and Trevor Cooney added 15 points and five assists as Syracuse left the Bahamas with a title, beating No. 25 Texas A&M 74-67 in the finals of the Battle 4 Atlantis.

I guess it’s time to start taking the Orange seriously.

There’s a lot to like about this group. Gbinije and Cooney are both fifth-year seniors that not only understand how to operate at the top of the 2-3 zone that Jim Boeheim runs, but they both have developed into versatile offensive weapons. Cooney was known as nothing more than a jump-shooter when he arrived up north, but he’s now averaging 3.5 assists on the season.

And Gbinije?

He has been one of the best players in the country through the first two weeks of the season. Through six games, he’s averaged 19.7 points, 4.2 assists, 3.0 boards and 2.8 steals while shooting 51.3 percent from beyond the arc.

Freshman Malachi Richardson, who had 16 points in the win over A&M, has scored double-figures in all six games this season while another freshman, Tyler Lydon, was against terrific on Friday, finishing with 13 points and eight boards. He’s now shooting 58.8 percent from beyond the arc this season.

And that’s where this team is going to do the majority of their damage this season.

Through six games, they’re shooting 41.1 percent from beyond the arc. In the three wins in the Bahamas, the Orange knocked were 34-for-73 from beyond the arc, a 46.5 percent clip. The question isn’t whether or not that rate can continue — four of the six players that saw action on Friday are dangerous three-point shooters while the other two, Tyler Roberson  and DaJuan Coleman, aren’t going to be shooting threes — but what happens on the nights where the threes aren’t going down.

There are going to be nights where they shoot 5-for-25 instead of 11-for-25. Will they have enough firepower then? Will their defense be good enough? Will guys like Roberson and Coleman be able to supply a scoring punch? Will Cooney, Gbinije and Richardson attack the paint instead of settling for jumpers?

Because at the very least, these three games in the Bahamas have proven that the Orange are going to be relevant this season, even in the loaded ACC. Whether that means they’re going to push for a top four finish or simply end the year as a tournament team remains to be seen, but this much is clear: Jim Boeheim has himself a squad Upstate.

No. 10 Gonzaga outlasts No. 18 UConn despite late offensive struggles

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No. 10 Gonzaga survived a furious rally from No. 18 UConn to win the third place game in the Battle 4 Atlantis, 73-70.

The Zags were up by as much as 21 points early in the second half, leading 48-27, but UConn slowly chipped away at the lead. Kyle Wiltjer led four players in double-figures with 17 points while Eric McClellan added 15 points, making a number of key plays in the second half when it looked like the Zags were in danger of giving away the lead.

As good as Gonzaga looked in the first 22 minutes of this game — and they looked really, really good — the second half exposed the concerns that many had with this group entering the season. Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr., who both shot around 40 percent from beyond the arc and started for four years, graduated, meaning that Gonzaga’s point guard situation is, more or less, Josh Perkins.

Perkins was terrific in the second half of a loss to Texas A&M on Thursday. He played 17 foul-plagued minutes against UConn. When UConn’s defense ratcheted up during the second half, Gonzaga struggled finding a way to consistently get good shots on the offensive end. Part of that was due to ineffective point guard play and part of it was a result of not really having anyone on the offensive end that can create a look on their own. As skilled as Wiltjer is, his impact can be limited when pick-and-pop actions aren’t working and he’s getting doubled in the post.

Perkins is talented, but this is essentially his first season of college basketball; he was a medical redshirt last season after breaking his jaw last November. There are going to be ups-and-downs, and that’s problematic on a team where he is essentially the only point guard on the roster.

The good news?

Gonzaga beat a good UConn team on a day when their best players struggled in crunch-time. It was McClellan and Kyle Dranginis that made the big plays down the stretch, not the big names on the Gonzaga roster.