Doug McDermott saved his best for his final home game on Saturday night, while Wichita State extended its season record to 34-0 by winning the Missouri Valley Conference tournament.
Creighton and Wichita St. remain college basketball’s best stories, but again took a back seat thanks to yet another installment of the tired Duke/North Carolina rivalry, promoted ad nauseam by ESPN.
I was fortunate enough to be part of a record crowd of nearly 19,000 – including Warren Buffett and other luminaries – who witnessed McDermott drop a career-high 45 points on the Providence Friars in a game that was effectively over by midway through the first half. The 88-73 win improved Creighton’s record to 24-6.
The remaining suspense at the Century Link Center was if McDermott would reach 3,000 points and move into seventh place on the NCAA;s all-time scoring list. Both milestones were reached.
Even though he may climb as high as second on the all-time list by the time Creighton’s season ends, McDermott will be the first to remind you he remains light-years behind first place. Pete Maravich’s 3,667 points were compiled in 83 college games (McDermott has played 140) in an era without a three-point line or a shot clock. Maravich’s mark is one that will likely never be broken.
The best quality of McDermott is that he gets it. The night culminated as a celebration for McDermott and three other seniors in a 45-minute postgame ceremony. As Bluejays, the group went 104-36 including 81 wins in the past three years. This year they finished second in their first season in in the Big East, and overcame expectations in a league that was expected to be dominated by Marquette and Georgetown.
Sadly, the game was not available to most fans. Fox Sports 1 carried three Big East games earlier in the day, but the Providence/Creighton contest aired on CBS Sports Network, available only to those willing to pay extra money to their cable/satellite providers.
But Creighton’s national television exposure remains miles ahead of Wichita State, whose games this year were mostly held hostage on ESPN3. The company line is for fans to get accustomed to and embrace the possibilities of watching games online and on demand. That is if your cable/satellite provider allows it.
You can have Warren Buffett’s portfolio and still be unable access ESPN3 if you are a Dish Network customer.
The Shockers remain a thorn in the side of some national media members. Yahoo! ran a column all week with Pat Forde suggesting Wichita State should drop the Missouri Valley championship game to take the pressure off. It’s agenda driven journalism, the longer WSU’s possibility of 40-0 remains, the less time Forde and cohort Dan Wetzel can spend talking about Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins.
Even Seth Davis got it in a CBS halftime segment, saying Wichita State is as capable as anyone to win the national title. But colleague Doug Gottlieb is not convinced Gregg Marshall’s squad even deserves a one seed.
Give me a break. The Shockers will be the first team since the 1990-91 UNLV Runnin’ Rebels to enter the NCAA tourney undefeated
The obvious fact is Wichita St. has outclassed an over-matched MVC field this year, like the 1991 UNLV squad that dominated the Big West. What Wichita State needed was the Creighton rivalry. The shifting landscape of conference realignment killed Creighton vs. Wichita State. I would have loved to watch a trilogy between them. It would have been far better than any Duke/Syracuse or Duke/North Carolina fixture. The Shockers needed to face Creighton even if it meant a loss or two.
Once Creighton’s season ends, all the talk surrounding McDermott will turn to the 2014 NBA Draft. In this era of one-and-dones, McDermott’s four-year tenure at Creighton in itself serves as an indictment of that system.
Most mock drafts have him going mid first-round, after the likes of Wiggins, Parker, Marcus Smart and Australian phenom Dante Exum (rumored to have a preference for the Lakers).
Does McDermott need to star at the next level to back up his college statistics? Christian Laettner was a journeyman in the NBA, and that didn’t take away from his Duke legacy. Jimmer Fredette currently sits near the end of the Chicago Bulls bench, and is considered the hardwood version of Tim Tebow: a college icon proving to be a square peg in a round hole in the pros. That still doesn’t diminish his contribution to the college game.
The pro career will play itself out. But McDermott is certainly the biggest thing to come through Omaha since Gale Sayers and Bob Gibson. A front-page article in a local Sunday paper went as far as to suggest a Doug McDermott statue be constructed, immediately.
What Creighton and Wichita State have done is put their schools on the national map for years to come, a fact that can no longer be ignored.