Doug McDermott returned to school to take on the challenge of a new league

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All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here.

Doug McDermott is living college basketball’s version of the American Dream.

He’s spent his life in places like Cedar Falls, Ames and Omaha. He’s either undersized or not quite athletic enough, depending on what position you’re trying to pigeonhole him into, but he makes up for his tweener reputation by being arguably the best shooter in all of college basketball. He was a scrawny, 6-foot-nothing big man as a freshman in high school, “blossoming” into the sixth-man as a junior on a team that also included Harrison Barnes.

When it came time to pick a college, McDermott passed on a chance to walk-on at Iowa State, where his dad, Greg, was coaching, to sign a letter of intent at Northern Iowa. The only reason he ended up at Creighton was that Greg left ISU before being asked to leave, taking over for Dana Altman, who bolted Omaha for Oregon.

It was there that Doug began to live out the dreams of every kid that grew up in America’s Heartland: he averaged 14.9 points and 7.2 boards as a freshman, launching a college basketball career that will, in all likelihood, see him put his name along side the likes of Patrick Ewing and Wayman Tisdale as three-time AP All-Americans.

He went from “that other kid” on Harrison Barnes’ team to a fixture on Sportscenter and ESPN.com, from a mid-major afterthought to a guy that actively made the decision to forego being a first round pick in the NBA Draft.

His career has been the script of a Disney movie that seems just a bit too good to be true, but it would have ended before this season began if it weren’t for a little luck in conference realignment.

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The first time that Doug McDermott ever set foot in New York City was for an AAU tournament. His team in Iowa had traveled all the way to the Big Apple to play in front of scouts and coaches, to try and earn themselves a scholarship.

The trip was anything but glamourous.

“We took a bus,” McDermott said. “21 hours.”

(MORE: Check out the NBCSports.com Big East Preview. Where does Creighton rank?)

His second trip to NYC came last month. The McDermotts hopped on a chartered jet with a couple of other members of the Creighton program, flying from Omaha to New York to hit Chelsea Piers for Big East media day where they spent hours decked out in suits, giving interview after interview after interview. He answered questions about what it will be like playing in Madison Square Garden or Hinkle Fieldhouse, taking roadtrips to Philly and DC and NYC, playing in a conference whose name evokes so much history and hoops prestige.

“That’s a little different experience,” McDermott said with a laugh, but it’s precisely the kind of experience that McDermott is looking for. It’s one of the biggest reasons that the two-time Missouri Valley Player of the Year will enter this season as the Preseason Big East Player of the Year instead of starting out on the bench on some NBA team’s roster.

McDermott was ready to move on from the Valley, and the new league provided him with precisely the landing spot he was looking for.

“I feel like I really accomplished as much as I could have playing in the Valley,” he said. “I wanted a new challenge, and if the Big East weren’t there, I think the decision [whether or not] to come back would have been a lot easier. I think I would have gone. The new challenge of playing against new teams and traveling to different cities.”

“The excitement around our school and our program is at an all-time high right now, and it’s tough to walk away from that.”

McDermott was effusive in his praise for the Missouri Valley, and it sounded sincere enough to make it clear that the savvy 21 year old wasn’t simply following the fundamental rules of speaking to the media: compliment everyone. He said he’ll miss the conference and the traditions of the league, that he’ll miss the long-standing rivalries and the familiarity of the fan bases. He specifically mentioned his disappointment in losing the rivalry with Wichita State, a statement that anyone with a proper appreciation for college hoops will agree with.

So understand, when McDermott says he was ready to move on and he needed a new challenge, he wasn’t taking a swipe at the Valley.

He’s just being honest.

(CLICK HERE to read through the rest of NBCSports.com’s feature stories)

“In the MVC, everyone seems to kind of have people figured out. That’s why sometimes we would hit a rough patch, like in February when we lost a couple in a row,” McDermott said. “It’s kind of the way it is, it’s a grind. I think the Big East will be that way as well, but it’s going to be new for some of these teams that are playing us. It’s something I thought about, it’s going to feel like an NCAA tournament kind of game the first time around. That’s something that I’m really excited about.”

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The relationship between Greg and Doug is as strong as it has ever been, but when Doug made the decision to enroll at Creighton, he knew that turning Dad into Coach Dad wouldn’t be the easiest transition to make.

“It was really tough at first. I wasn’t a huge fan of it,” Doug said. “It’s almost annoying, like, ‘Man, I’ve heard this stuff over and over again for 18 years, and now it’s in a different tone and he’s yelling at my teammates and my friends?'” But they’ve grown since those first weeks, slowly learning how to keep basketball on the basketball court and family time back at the house.

“Now that everything’s established and we have a good group of guys that understand the whole situation, it’s been really easy,” Doug said. “When we have a tough day and coaches really get on us or something, it’s not like I’m going to be on my dad’s side. Everyone’s in the same boat. I’m pissed off at him too.”

The pinnacle came during Doug’s decision-making process last spring, when McDermott had to choose whether he wanted to lead his father’s program into the Big East or if it was time for him to head off to pursue a career as a professional. Greg never pushed for Doug to stay put, even though he knew it that having an all-american on his roster would allow the Bluejays to compete for the league title in their first season.

“I was completely honest with Doug about the feedback that I received from NBA teams,” Greg said. “Some of it was great, some of it was middle of the road and some of it was ‘I’m not sure if this guy guards, I’m not sure what position this guy plays.'”

“I was proud that he was able to navigate through the process and come to a decision that was best for him. I’m proud as his coach, but I’m also proud as his father.”

Ironically enough, Doug’s decision to return also forced his dad’s hand.

Starting point guard Grant Gibbs received a waiver that will allow him to be eligible for a sixth season, meaning that Creighton was one scholarship over the limit of 13.

Doug, who could become the first player since the mid-80s to be a three-time first-team all-american, is now a walk-on. It’s also the first time that he’s received special treatment since joining the program.

“The only thing is [when] my dad is talking to the team, it’s, ‘Alright, all you scholarship guys and Doug, come watch film’. I’m like, ‘C’mon man’. Everyone was laughing, telling me I’ve got laundry today.”

Maybe things aren’t that different at home and at practice after all.

S. Hauser, Anim lead No. 11 Marquette past Providence 76-58

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Sam Hauser had 18 points and 13 rebounds, Sacar Anim scored 18 and No. 11 Marquette raced past Providence 76-58 on Saturday.

The Golden Eagles (23-4, 12-2 in the Big East) led by 11 points at halftime and showed no signs of letting up, shooting 53.6 percent in the second half to finish at 54.9 percent for the game. Anim went 8 for 12 and Hauser 7 for 10 for Marquette, which got 14 points on 2-of-12 shooting from leading scorer Markus Howard.

Alpha Diallo had 19 points and six rebounds for the Friars (15-13, 5-10 Big East). Providence went from shooting 27.6 percent in the first half to 50 percent in the second half, yet Marquette proved too tough a cover on a day that the Golden Eagles had five players in double figures.

Joey Hauser had 15 points and Markus Howard added 14 for Marquette.

Marquette put the game away after Providence moved to within 40-33 early in the second half. On three straight trips to the basket, the Golden Eagles connected from deep, with a 3-pointer from Howard allowing the visitors to take a 58-37 lead with 10:54 remaining.

The Golden Eagles shot 10 of 21 from 3-point range while the Friars went 6 of 20.

TOUGH OUT NO MATTER WHERE

Marquette is 16-1 at Fiserv Forum, matching the most home wins in a single season since the 2012-13 team finished 16-0. Saturday saw the Golden Eagles pick up their sixth road win in league play versus one defeat. The six road wins against conference foes represents the most in a single season since Marquette joined the Big East in 2005.

TAKE A BOW

During halftime, Providence honored a dozen former student-athletes who were inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame. Included in the Class of 2019 was Jamel Thomas, who played a key role on the team that came close to reaching the Final Four in 1997. Thomas ranks sixth on Providence’s all-time scoring list (1,971 points).

STIFF COMPETITION

The Big East entered Saturday’s action as the only Division I conference in the nation with every team owning an overall winning record.

UP NEXT

Marquette travels to defending national champion Villanova on Wednesday. It will be a rematch of a game the Golden Eagles won 66-65 on Feb. 9 in Milwaukee.

Providence is at Butler on Tuesday. The Friars and Bulldogs have yet to play each other.

Without Tremont Waters, No. 13 LSU beats No. 5 Tennessee for first place in SEC

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Playing without their star sophomore point guard Tremont Waters, No. 13 LSU got 29 points, five boards, five assists and three steals from freshman Javonte Smart and 23 points from Skylar Mays as they outlasted No. 5 Tennessee, 82-80, in overtime.

The win did not come without some controversy, which only makes sense given that it is LSU that is involved. In the final seconds of overtime, after LSU tied the game at 80, Lamonte Turner missed a shot and in the ensuing battle for a rebound, Smart came up with the ball and was fouled by Tennessee’s all-american, Grant Williams with 0.6 seconds left on the clock. It was a tough call for Tennessee to take, but it was the right call. Smart made both free throws and the Tigers got the win.

And that is a win of significance, too.

LSU entered the day a game out of first place in the SEC standings behind Tennessee, and with No. 4 Kentucky’s blowout win over Auburn in Lexington on Saturday, there is now a three-way tie for first place in the conference title race. Next Saturday, the Wildcats make a return trip to Knoxville for a rematch with Tennessee.

The most impressive part of this win for LSU is that it not only came without Waters available, but with Naz Reid playing one of the worst games of his basketball career. He spent much of the first half in foul trouble and finished the afternoon 0-for-9 from the floor with just a single point.

Who saw that coming?

And it reinforces something I think that we all have figured out about this LSU team: There is not a team in college basketball that can combine a ceiling as high as their ceiling and a floor as low as their floor. The talent is, unquestionably, there. If you can win in Rupp Arena against this Kentucky team, if you can pick off a top five team and SEC title contender while getting essentially nothing out of your two most talented players, you are dangerous.

But we cannot overlook the fact that, in between those two wins, LSU very nearly lost at Georgia and then did take a loss at home to Florida.

That’s just who they are.

When they get up for a game, they are dangerous, and it’s hard to imagine a situation where they are not up for games in March.

Hunter Rallies No. 3 Virginia Past No. 18 Louisville 64-52

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — De’Andre Hunter scored 19 of his career-high 26 points after halftime, and No. 3 Virginia rallied from a 12-point deficit to beat No. 18 Louisville 64-52 on Saturday.

The Cavaliers (24-2, 12-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) trailed early in the second half before regrouping to hold the Cardinals (18-10, 9-6) to 6 of 30 from the field (20 percent) and 31 percent shooting overall. Virginia also found its offense, shooting 59 percent and using a 12-1 run over 4:36 for a 55-48 lead it stretched to 12 for its fourth consecutive victory.

Hunter was perfect after the break, making all six shots to finish 9 of 11 from the field. Mamadi Diakite added 14 points, while Jay Huff came off the bench to score 12. The Cavaliers maintained at least a share of the conference lead in the process.

After making 10 of 16 from long range in the first 20 minutes, Louisville managed just 2 of 17 afterward and lost for the fifth time in seven games.

Jordan Nwora had 17 points and reserve Ryan McMahon scored 12 for the Cardinals.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Virginia continued its push toward the top of the AP Top 25 with the victory. Louisville figures to fall out of the poll with its second double-digit loss this week.

BIG PICTURE

Virginia: The Cavaliers improved to 8-2 against ranked foes and won their eighth in a row over Louisville. While they shut off the inside throughout the game, their patience in letting the Cardinals shoot themselves out paid off as they won on the boards 39-28 while dominating the paint 38-4.

Louisville: The Cardinals needed this victory for reasons beyond conquering their nemesis. They instead continued their freefall in the standings, and their failure to generate anything inside was a key factor.

UP NEXT

Virginia: hosts Georgia Tech on Wednesday in its lone regular-season meeting with the Yellow Jackets.

Louisville: visits Boston College on Wednesday night, seeking a season sweep of the Eagles after winning the earlier matchup 80-70 last month.

Bubble Banter: All of the weekend’s bubble action in one place

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Now that conference play is just about done and the NCAA tournament is right around the corner, it is time for us to get fully invested in the “who’s-in-who’s-out” discussion. Bubble Banter has never been more important!

Some quick housekeeping before we dive into it:

  • This page will be updated throughout the weekend, so be sure to check back on Friday, Saturday and Sunday as the games get played. 
  • We’ll update them best that we can, but the NET rankings will be accurate through Friday morning. 
  • If you see something we missed, if you have an issue with a team we left out or if you want to congratulate us on a job well done, drop a comment below or hit us up here: @RobDauster.
  • The cut-off we will be using this year for teams that are “on the bubble” is the No. 9 seed line. If your favorite team is seeded as a No. 9 or better in our most recent bracket, they will not be discussed below. This does not mean that those teams are locks, but it means they need to do something dumb before they are in danger of missing out on the tournament. 
  • On Thursday, our Dave Ommen released an updated bracket, and these eight teams were placed in an 8-9 game: Ole Miss, Ohio State, Auburn, Wofford, Baylor, Minnesota, St. John’s, Syracuse.

Onto the weekend’s action.

WINNERS

CLEMSON (NET: 44, SOS: 31): Beating Boston College (123) at home isn’t going to change all that much for the Tigers, but for a team that is currently sitting at one of the First Four Out in the most recent NBC Sports bracket projection, that’s a loss that would have been TOUGH to survive.

OKLAHOMA (NET: 38, SOS: 13): Have the Sooners figured things out? After snapping a five-game losing streak last Saturday at TCU (41), they turned that into a winning streak by beating Texas (41) at home this Saturday. The Sooners are 17-10 on the season and 5-9 in the Big 12, but with a couple of good wins — Wofford (24) at home, Florida (31) on a neutral, at TCU (41) — they are in a good spot considering the state of the bubble this year.

TEMPLE (NET: 54, SOS: 63): Temple picked off a Tulsa team that has been playing better of late, but the issue the Owls are currently facing is that there isn’t really a way to drastically improve their profile until the American tournament starts. As it stands, we have them in a play-in game. Essentially every game they play is a must-win at this point.

LOSERS

TEXAS (NET: 35, SOS: 9): Playing without Kerwin Roach, Texas went into Norman and lost to Oklahoma (38), 69-67. That’s the seventh Q1 loss for the Longhorns this season. On the season, they’re 15-12 overall with four Q1 wins and an 8-11 mark against the top two quadrants. Throw in a home loss to Radford (130) and Texas is nowhere near safe despite the fact that they have a neutral court win over North Carolina (9), home wins over Purdue (11) and Kansas (15) and a win at Kansas State (28). This team is the perfect example of why the bubble is so soft this season.

LEFT TO PLAY

No. 19 Iowa State at TCU (NET: 41, SOS: 33), Sat. 2:00 p.m. (ESPN2)
George Washington at VCU (NET: 37, SOS: 32), Sat. 2:00 p.m.
GEORGETOWN (NET: 69, SOS: 75) at Creighton, Sat. 2:30 p.m. (FOX)
No. 15 Purdue at NEBRASKA (NET: 46, SOS: 92), Sat. 4:00 p.m. (BTN)
Missouri at FLORIDA (NET: 31, SOS: 29), Sat. 4:00 p.m. (ESPNU)
WOFFORD (NET: 24, SOS: 152) at FURMAN (NET: 45, SOS: 232), Sat. 4:00 p.m. (ESPN3)
UTAH STATE (NET: 36, SOS: 123) at Boise State, Sat. 4:00 p.m.
Vanderbilt at ALABAMA (NET: 51, SOS: 27), Sat. 6:00 p.m. (ESPNU)
SIU-Edwardsville at BELMONT (NET: 53, SOS: 217), 6:00 p.m. (ESPN+)
SETON HALL (NET: 64, SOS: 51) at St. John’s, 8:00 p.m. (FS1)
SMU at UCF (NET: 39, SOS: 72), Sun. 12:00 p.m. (CBSSN)
East Tennessee State at UNC GREENSBORO (NET: 60, SOS: 148), Sun. 3:00 p.m. (ESPN3)
Wake Forest at N.C. STATE (NET: 32, SOS: 208), Sun. 6:00 p.m. (ESPNU)
Cal at ARIZONA STATE (NET: 66, SOS: 69), Sun. 6:00 p.m. (Pac-12)

Iowa Play-By-Play Man Suspended For Calling African Player “King Kong”

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IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Iowa play-by-play announcer Gary Dolphin has been suspended for the rest of the season for referring to Maryland’s Bruno Fernando as “King Kong” during a broadcast.

Hawkeye Sports Properties, the multimedia rights manager for Iowa’s athletic, announced the move just hours before the 21st-ranked Hawkeyes hosted Indiana.

No. 24 Maryland beat Iowa 66-65 in Iowa City on Tuesday night. Fernando had 11 points and 11 rebounds, including a go-ahead putback with 7.8 seconds to go.

In describing the game’s closing moments, Dolphin said that Fernando — a 6-foot-10, 240-pound African-American player who was born in Angola — “was King Kong at the end of the game.”

This is the second time that Dolphin has been suspended this season.

He sat out two games after being caught on a microphone criticizing Iowa guard Maishe Dailey in a win over Pittsburgh in November.