Over the next day or so, we’re bring you a few superlatives we believe will pan out, or not. The choice is yours to believe. Over the weekend, we’ll have our “Superlatives of the Ridiculous” up.
For now, four serious topics, with four totally subjective answers.
Doug McDermott, Creighton – Shocker, right? The leading returning scorer in the nation at 22.9 points per game has so much in his arsenal that it’s not fair. He can score on the inside (60.1 percent from the field), the perimeter (48.6 percent from three), can get ot the foul line (79.6 percent) and can move without the ball to get open. It’s frankly not even a tough decision. He’s a future NBA lottery pick whenever he chooses to come out for the draft and with the team he has around him, it’s fair to say the Bluejays will have no problem running the Missouri Valley Conference and a deep run in the NCAA Tournament isn’t out of the question. And we all know being on a good team just helps your cause.
Most likely to lead the nation in scoring
Frank Gaines, IPFW – WHO!? That’s the general reaction I get when I tell people this. But this dude can pour it in. He averaged 21.2 last season for the Mastadons (best mascot in sports) and has been the focal point of the Fort Wayne offensive attack for the past two seasons and knows how to handle double-teams and every team’s best defender. He’s a fifth-year senior who will contend with South Dakota State’s Nate Wolters for Summit League Player of the Year honors. Though he’s not as complete at Wolters. But he has to score to help IPFW, so score he will.
Kris Davis, SIU-Edwardsville – Again, WHO!?!? This one is actually easier than you would think. Davis led the nation in 3-point percentage last season but didn’t have the amount of shots to qualify at 59.8 percent (58-of-97). This season, he’s got some eyes on him, even if he does play for one of the worst teams in the Ohio Valley Conference. He’s going to get the green light on a team that doesn’t have a ton of scoring — Davis is their third-leading returning scorer at 11.6 ppg — so expect the volume to come, but does the percentage follow? I think so.
Most likely to lead the nation in rebounding
Dennis Tinnion, Marshall – Not so much of an unknown name. Tinnion averaged 10.2 points and 10.0 rebounds last season in his first year of Division I basketball. With DeAndre Kane back, he won’t be the focal point again and he’s got the athleticism, even at 6-8, 232 pounds, to get to balls that seem impossible. Most of rebounding is positioning and Tinnon lives under the basket. He’ll make his living cleaning glass this year.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF: Creighton University; SIU-Edwardsville
For the rest of the week, we’ll be picking the players, coaches and teams most likely to do some big things, or, well, bad things for the upcoming season. We’ll start today with four individuals poised for big seasons.
Most Likely to Win National Player of the Year:
Cody Zeller: Easy answer, right? He’s being heralded as the best player in the nation on the best team in the nation. As someone who grew up in southern Indiana watching and reading about all three Zeller brothers, I’m pretty excited to see what Cody is capable of this year. Simply put, he can do it all. With freshman year averages of 15.6 points per game, 6.6 rebounds and a 62 percent field goal percentage, Zeller helped bring an IU team back from the dead into one of the top 10 teams in the nation. He also averaged over a steal and a block each time out. The Hoosiers have a really deep team this year, but I still anticipate Zeller getting more touches this year. Last season he only had 11 games with more than 10 field goal attempts. This is Zeller’s award to lose, as expectations are as high as they’ve been in over 20 years in Bloomington. Creighton’s Doug McDermott and Murray State’s Isaiah Canaan are the two guys that could challenge Zeller the most.
Most Likely to Lead the Nation in Scoring:
Doug McDermott: One of the guys that could possibly give Zeller a run for his money for PoY, McDermott can flat out score. Averaging 22.9 points per game last year for Creighton, good for third in the nation, McDermott did so shooting a staggering 60 percent from the field. Plenty of people shoot 60 percent, but very few of them are also deadly 3-point shooters. The Creighton sharpshooter connected on 49 percent of his three’s last season, making 1.5 a game. Word is he’s improved his shot off the dribble, so the Missouri Valley better be on the lookout now more than ever.
Brady Heslip: With apologies to Indiana’s Jordan Hulls and Butler’s Rotnei Clarke, I just can’t get Heslip’s performance from last year’s NCAA Tournament for Baylor out of my head. In a second-round game against Colorado, he made nine threes and scored 27 points. For the year he made 100 of them. All this kid does is shoot three’s, but why fault him when he makes 44 percent of them? He made 2.6 three’s per contest, and only 0.6 two-point field goals. Something tells me the folks down in Waco don’t mind, though.
Most Likely to Lead the Nation in Rebounding:
Andre Roberson: Fifth in the nation in rebounding last year, I think this Colorado big man has the tools to finish out on top for 2012-13. Last season he averaged 11.1 rebounds per game, grabbing down double figure boards 26 times. He helped Colorado upset UNLV in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last year, hauling down 16 rebounds to go with 12 points.
Images: Google Images/SI.com
The bubble teams can rejoice. Creighton and Murray State were both able to win the conference tournaments, albeit in close fashion, thus giving them automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament.
The best part about that for the bubble teams is that those two squads were going to be locks anyway. If Illinois State were to win the Missouri Valley or Tennessee State win the Ohio Valley, it would have taken a bid away from a team like Miami or Texas.
Illinois State and Tennessee State sure made the bubble teams worry though. After upsetting No. 14 Wichita State the previous day, the Redbirds were in good position to knock off Creighton in the MVC championship. Nic Moore drove coast-to-coast for a layup with 6.5 seconds left to force overtime with the Bluejays. Creighton’s Antoine Young took over in the extra period, however, scoring eight of his 14 points in overtime to preserve the victory for the favorite.
As for Tennessee State, they had already defeated Murray once this year — the only loss of the year for the Racers. They almost did it again, up seven points with just over five minutes left. Murray was somehow able to come back and get the automatic bid. Jewaun Long drove the baseline to scored the winning layup with 4.4 seconds left to win it for Murray.
So what does this mean for the rest of the country? The MVC was going to get two bids regardless of the conference tournament, Wichita and Creighton. Likewise for the OVC, where Murray is a lock. This gives the bubble teams a much better chance at making the Big Dance.
Both Creighton and Murray State are threats to make a run in the tournament and possibly pull off an upset. They both feature stars (Isaiah Canaan for Murray and Doug McDermott for Creighton), they are both deadly from deep and they both rebound well — all of which are key in making a March run.
North Carolina-Ashville and Belmont were the top other squads that punched in their automatic bids over the weekend. Ashville will likely be a 15/16 seed, possibly playing one of the first round games. Belmont could possibly be a sleeper to make a run, having not lost since Jan. 21. In their season-opener they lost to Duke by just one point, 77-76. Depending on who they play, their opposition should be on alert next week.
On that note — next week — that feels good to say. This is going to be a fun week for all of us in Championship Week, but the real fun begins next week.
It might be unfair for Creighton to have Doug McDermott on his team. I mean look at his stats, he averages 23.6 points per game with 8.3 rebounds. Oh and he’s shooting 52 percent — not from the field, that’s too pedestrian for McDermott. The sophomore forward is shooting that good from the 3-point line (62 percent from the field, for the record).
McDermott is a big reason why Creighton is having their best season since the Kyle Korver-era. They stand at 21-3 for the year and 11-2 in the tough Missouri Valley Conference. But as good as the Bluejays’ star is, he isn’t all they’ve got.
Creighton has five guys averaging at least seven points a game, which may not seem a lot, but when you take into account their top guy is one of the leading scorers in the country, that’s pretty good.
One of those players is senior guard Antoine Young, who is averaging 11 points and 4.5 assists for Creighton. He went off for 23 points in their buzzer-beater loss to Northern Iowa on Saturday — the second time he has gotten over 20 against them this year.
He isn’t even their top assist guy either, as Grant Gibbs is averaging 5.8 a game. Gibbs is a Gonzaga transfer who is filling up the statbook, also averaging 7.9 points and 4.5 boards. Led by the guard play of Gibbs and Young, Creighton is second in the country in assists with 19.3 a game, trailing only Iona. Creighton is 17-0 this year when one of their players has at least six assists in a game. Having pass-first guards has been a key in helping McDermott be the prolific scorer he is.
Add in Gregory Echenique (9.5 ppg, 7.2 rpg) and Jahenns Manigat (7.1 ppg) and this is a very formidable team with a chance to make a run in the NCAA’s.
But no mid major can be ranked as high as Creighton is without a little luck.No one on their rotation has missed any time this year, as they have had nine guys play all 23 games this year.
And this team is shooting deadly, and it doesn’t matter where they are on the court. They are first in the nation in both field goal percentage (.514) and 3-point percentage (.449).
McDermott will be the MVC Player of the Year and a possible All-American, but he will be double teamed by the best teams in the nation come March. His teammates have had his back all year, and they will have to keep doing so in order to make a run to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament.