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.

Saturday’s NCAA Tournament Elite Eight schedule, tip times, and announcer pairings

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Regional Finals – Saturday, March 25

6:09 p.m., TBS, San Jose
No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 11 Xavier (Brian Anderson, Chris Webber, Lewis Johnson)

8:49 p.m., TBS, Kansas City
No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 3 Oregon (Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller, Dan Bonner, Dana Jacobson)

Sweet 16 Preview: Friday’s picks, predictions, betting lines and channels

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Thursday brought us a thrilling night of college basketball. Oregon won a thriller. Gonzaga did, too. Kansas put on a show, toying with the Big Ten champs. 

And that was just the appetizer for what’s on tap Friday night.

For an in-depth look at each region, check these out:

SWEET 16 PREVIEW: Midwest | West | South | East

No. 1 NORTH CAROLINA (-7.5) vs. No. 4 BUTLER, 7:09 p.m. (CBS): As weird as it sounds for a team that finished second in the Big East, that swept Villanova and that has a combined three wins over Arizona and Xavier, Butler is basically back to being a mid-major in the South Region. That’s what happens when you get stuck in a region with three of the biggest brands in the sport.

And don’t think, for a second, that Butler is going to be overmatched here. They’ve proven, time and again this season, that they are good enough to play with the best of the best even if their roster, on paper, doesn’t look that way.

But here’s the thing about North Carolina: If they play their best basketball game, they should be able to run through the Bulldogs. That’s a big ‘if’, however, especially if Joel Berry II plays the way that he has played in the first two games of the tournament. North Carolina goes as Berry goes, and he’s 3-for-21 from the floor in those two games.

PREDICTION: North Carolina (-7.5)

No. 3 BAYLOR (-3.5) vs. No. 7 SOUTH CAROLINA, 7:29 p.m., (TBS): Baylor’s front line is massive. Johnathan Motley is an all-american in the middle, Jo Lual-Acuil was one of the nation’s most improved players this season there’s an argument to be made that Terry Maston has been the most important player for the Bears in this tournament. That’s where Baylor’s strength lies, and they play to it. The Bears want to play slow and they want to pound the ball into the paint.

Where Baylor struggles, however, is with their guard play. Manu Lecomte and Jake Lindsey are not exactly Frank Mason III and Devonte’ Graham, and if we’ve learned anything about South Carolina this season, it’s that their defense can be a nightmare for opponents to try and run offense against. They don’t pressure in the full court, but their half court defense is just as tough and as physical and as frustrating as West Virginia’s. I think the first one to 60 wins this game, and I think South Carolina gets it done.

PREDICTION: South Carolina (+3.5)

No. 2 KENTUCKY (even) vs. No. 3 UCLA, 9:39 p.m. (CBS): Does it get any better than this?

Do you really need me to tell you that a matchup between two of the four best teams in college basketball, two teams that can legitimately win a national title, playing in the Sweet 16 is must-see TV?

You shouldn’t.

You probably know all the storylines by now, too, so I’m going to say this: I think this game comes down to how UCLA decides to matchup with Kentucky’s guards. My best guess at what happens is that Aaron Holiday chases Malik Monk around all those screens while Lonzo Ball draws De’Aaron Fox, mostly to save his legs but in part because he has the length to challenge a jump shot while playing far enough off to keep his from getting into the lane.

PREDICTION: I think Kentucky wins, but I love the over (165.5)

No. 4 FLORIDA (-1.5) vs. No. 8 WISCONSIN, 9:59 p.m. (TBS): Florida is one of the best defensive teams in the country. They have length and athletes everywhere on the floor, and head coach Mike White knows it. They pressure, they overplay passing lanes and they make life miserable for opposing playmakers. Wisconsin, like Baylor, is a team that plays through their bigs, but unlike Baylor, a post-up for Nigel Hayes or Ethan Happ is like their point guard getting an isolation. Both guys are just such great passers out of the post that Greg Gard doesn’t have to worry as much about the lack of playmakers in his back court.

I think that is a huge advantage for Wisconsin in what could otherwise be thought of as a bad matchup.

But more than anything, I trust Wisconsin’s vets more in NCAA tournament games than just about anyone else. This is going to be the 17th NCAA tournament game for Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig, the most of anyone in the tournament. They’ve both played in two Final Fours and two more Sweet 16s. Hayes and Koenig are the two career leaders in NCAA tournament scoring, and Koenig may be the single-most clutch shooter left in the tournament. I’ll bet on that.

PREDICTION: Wisconsin (+1.5)

No. 11 Xavier advances to the Elite 8 with upset win over No. 2 Arizona

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Trevon Bluiett scored 25 points, Malcolm Bernard scored all 15 of his points in the second half and No. 11 seed Xavier, despite being down eight points with less than four minutes left in the game, rallied to beat No. 2 seed Arizona, 73-71, to advance to the Elite 8.

Arizona is going to regret that loss. As good as Allonzo Trier was in building that eight-point lead — he finished with 19 points, including a run where he scored 15 straight points — he went into full hero-ball mode in the final minutes, a stretch where Arizona’s point guard issues came into plain view. I’m sure that there are going to be Arizona fans that are upset with Sean Miller about the way that the final four minutes played out, but remember: this Arizona team lost Ray Smith, Terrence Ferguson and were without Allonzo Trier for the first 19 games of the season, and Miller still led them to a share of the Pac-12 regular season title and the Pac-12 tournament title.

He’s an incredible coach.

Arizona is lucky to have him.

He’ll breakthrough eventually.

But the story of this game isn’t Arizona or Sean Miller, it’s Chris Mack. It’s Xavier.

The Musketeers have now won three games in the NCAA tournament. As of March 9th, the Musketeers had won three games in the previous five weeks — all three of which came against DePaul — and were heading into a game against Butler in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament with, quite literally, their NCAA tournament bid on the line. They were very much on the bubble, evidence being the No. 11 seed they earned after adding a top 15 win to their résumé.

The Musketeers have been without Edmond Sumner (torn ACL) since the end of January and without Myles Davis (left the team) since the beginning of January. They were two of the three most important players on the Xavier roster heading into the season, and as of today, head coach Chris Mack is fielding a name whose only point guard is a four-star freshman named Quentin Goodin.

They shouldn’t be here.

They shouldn’t be one game away from the Final Four, but this is what Mack does. He’s been a head coach for eight seasons, all of which have come at Baylor. This was his fourth Sweet 16, and the only time he actually entered the tournameht seeded higher than a No. 6 was last year, when the Musketeers were beaten in the second round by a Bronson Koenig buzzer-beater.

One thing that I’ve never really understood about coaching searches is why Mack’s name never gets mentioned with the likes of Dayton’s Archie Miller and Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall. Those are the two coaches outside the Power 5 leagues that get mentioned with every single quality opening. “Take a shot at Marshall and Miller, see if they’ll say yes, then move on.” Mack always ends up next on those lists, and I’ve never really understood why.

Part of it is probably because he’s already at a program that is in a high-major league. Part of it is because he’s a Xavier guy — he played there, spent eight seasons there during two stints as an assistant and is an Ohio native. Part of it is because Xavier is already a really good job.

But it does seem like Mack gets overlooked in all of these searches.

Take Indiana, for example.

Steve Alford is the first name everyone mentions with that job. Then it’s Miller and Marshall. If I’m Indiana’s AD, however, Mack is the guy that I go after, and not just because he’s proven that he can go into Indiana and recruit.

He’s just a flat-out terrific coach.

And if this run on top of his other three runs to the second weekend didn’t prove it to you, then the play that resulted in the eventual game-winning points should. It was simple, really, but it certainly was not something you see done in the college ranks all that often. With 50 seconds left and the game tied, Mack had his guys roll the ball up the floor and then used Bluiett, who is scorching the nets in this tournament, as a decoy, running him off of a screen to set up a duck-in for Sean O’Mara:

Not only was the play that Mack drew up beautiful, it took all of six seconds, which meant that Xavier had the lead and was guaranteed to have a shot to get the ball back to win the game regardless of what Arizona did at the other end of the floor.

That is great coaching.

And it’s past time for us to recognize that Mack belongs in the conversation among the best in the business.

No. 1 Kansas dominates No. 4 Purdue in style

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Kansas, the top-seeded team in Midwest region, didn’t just beat No. 4 Purdue, it did so in style. Fast break after fast break, 3-pointer after 3-pointer, dunk after dunk, the Jayhawks ran the Boilermakers off the floor, advancing to the Elite Eight with a 98-66 win on Thursday night in Kansas City.

It followed a familiar script as KU’s 90-70 win over No. 9 seed Michigan State in the second round. Only this time, the climax occurred sooner. Kansas was up 61-54 when Caleb Swaingan checked back into the game, playing alongside fellow Monstar Isaac Haas. Instead of Purdue’s size — the big advantage it had over Kansas — taking control, the only thing that grew was the deficit for the Boilermakers. Kansas went on an 11-0 run beginning at the 14:30 mark. By the time Haas was subbed out, the Jayhawks led 69-56. It never got closer.

Lagerald Vick threw down a 360 dunk … and the Jayhawks hadn’t even begun to pour it on yet. Now, that’s a team that’s playing with confidence.

Kansas shot 66 percent from the field in the second half and connected on 7-of-15 made 3-pointers on the evening. Purdue’s last lead was 35-33 with 4:54 remaining in the second half. That means the Jayhawks outscored the Boilermakers 65-31 for the remainder of the game.

For all that was made of Kansas matchup issues with Purdue, the Boilermakers never solved the matchup problems the Jayhawks presented. While Laden Lucas and the rest of the defense found ways to frustrate Caleb Swanigan (18 points, seven rebounds and five turnovers) and somehow, outrebounded the Boilermakers, Purdue never found a solution for penetration or 3-point shooting from KU’s stable of guards.

“Those guys, especially Caleb on the glass it’s hard to keep ’em off,” Kansas head coach Bill Self said. “If you look at Landen’s stats he only got four rebounds, but the story is Caleb only got seven. And if you had told this before the game that would be the give and take I would have sold out for that because he does a really good job of making sure neither one of them got it for the most part.”

Frank Mason II and Devonte Graham each had 26 points. Mason added seven rebounds and seven assists. Josh Jackson had a double-double of 15 points and 12 rebounds. Vick and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk each recorded double figures too. Lucas’ play has improved as the season’s progressed. They aren’t just putting teams away in this tournament, they’re doing it in style. And it couldn’t be happening at the right time.

They know how win close games, but through three NCAA Tournament games so far, the Jayhawks aren’t willing to take any chances. They’ve elected to not just put teams away, they’ve decided to do so in style.

Kansas advances to play No. 3 seed Oregon on Saturday in the Elite Eight.

WATCH: LaGerald Vick’s 360 dunk

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It takes a lot of confidence to throw down a dunk better suited for pre-game lay-up lines than the middle of a NCAA Tournament game.

But Kansas sophomore guard LaGerald Vick thought this breakaway opportunity in the second half of a Sweet 16 matchup against No. 4 seed Purdue was the perfect time to throw down a 360 dunk.