Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Emperor Has No Clothes

Perhaps the most amazing part of Baylor's 85-55 win over Creighton was that Baylor was the underdog coming into the game. Creighton has been living in a fantasy land all season - they've been all over TV, their offensive stats have been talked to death and Doug McDermott has even been compared to Larry Bird. In the second round, they got a nice cold slap of reality from a Baylor team that was bigger and more athletic than them at every position.

Creighton spent most of the season dominating a Big East conference that was only a shadow of its past glory. The conference got 4 bids and all 4 teams - Creighton, Villanova, Providence and Xavier - got knocked out before the Sweet 16. That's not good when two of those teams are a 2 and a 3 seed. Creighton's non-conference schedule was no big shakes either - wins over Arizona State, Nebraska, Tulsa and St. Joe's. No signature wins.

Against Baylor, a middle of the pack team in the Big 12, every single one of Creighton's holes were exposed. They had no big men who could match-up with Isaiah Austin or Cory Jefferson, no one who could protect the rim or clean the defensive glass, no one who could play out of the high post and dissect the Baylor zone. Creighton needed a lot of help in a lot of different areas and the only thing the National Player of the Year could do was hoist more shots.

People have the game exactly backwards. A one-dimensional scorer can't be the most valuable player in the sport - that skill-set is fairly replaceable. If you take a big-time scorer off the team, everyone else will get more field goal attempts and boost their scoring averages. Getting points is more zero-sum than getting rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. Every team has guys who can get points - the best teams have guys who get everything else.

As nice as McDermott's offensive numbers are, you could have switched him with any number of players and improved Creighton's team. If Aaron Gordon was in McDermott's role, Creighton would have a guy who could protect the rim, match-up with Jefferson and Austin, grab rebounds and set up their shooters from the high post. Gordon does more things on the court than McDermott, which makes his team much more dangerous. When it comes to stardom in basketball, people value the wrong things.

Doug McDermott was the basketball version of Andre Ware or David Klingler. He's a system player in a system designed to get him statistics at the expense of the team concept. Creighton plays 5-out with McDermott at the 4 and another 6'7 shooter at the 5 - great for spreading the floor on offense, pretty horrible when it comes to playing interior defense. That system will never beat a balanced basketball team in the post-season and McDermott will not be in that role in the NBA.

He's a good player and he'll have a long career at the next level, but this whole being a star thing is just about over. That SI cover is going to be pretty embarrassing in 10 years. It's kind of like when you tell younger basketball fans that Keith Van Horn was getting Larry Bird comps in 1998 - they don't believe you!

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