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Scouting Report: Bluejays roll with Doug McDermott

Photo by Anthony Giacomino/Paint Touches

Photo by Anthony Giacomino/Paint Touches

After an uninspiring non-conference season, Marquette starts fresh tonight when they take on the Creighton Bluejays in the Big East opener. An 8-5 record featured close losses to Arizona State, San Diego State, Wisconsin and New Mexico, leaving the Golden Eagles without any real quality wins. They’ll get that chance on the road against a Creighton team that figures to be atop the conference standings by season’s end.

The Bluejays went 10-2 in the non-conference schedule, including wins over Arizona State, Nebraska and California. Their two losses — San Diego State and George Washington — came in the Wooden Legacy, ending a chance of them playing Marquette in the championship game.

There’s one name to know on the Bluejays roster, and you likely already know of him. Senior forward Doug McDermott is averaging 24.8 points on 49 percent shooting and 7.3 rebounds and 1.2 assists. He has scored 20 or more points in all but one game, including four outings with 30 or more points. He’s taking 36.6 percent of his team’s shots when he’s on the court, the sixth highest rate in the country. Jamil Wilson’s availability (he strained his knee against Samford) will be key. If he can play, he’ll be matched up on McDermott the majority of the evening.

But the coach’s kid hasn’t done it by himself. Fellow senior forward Ethan Wragge is shooting 49 percent from the field and a remarkable 50.5 percent from beyond the arc on 91 attempts. He’s arguably been the best 3-point shooter in the nation, and he’s heating up of late, averaging 14 points in his last seven games.

Point guard Devin Brooks has been a model of efficiency in a reserve role. He’s shooting better than 51 percent from the field, has a top-40 assist rate of 33 percent and, at just 6-foot-2, has the 41st best offensive-rebound rate (15.4 percent) in the country. For reference, Davante Gardner has an offensive-rebound rate of 10.2 percent.

He backs up Grant Gibbs, who has struggled in his sixth-year senior season but is still averaging 5.9 points on 50 percent shooting and 4.3 assists. At 6-foot-5, he has stellar size and is a great defender. He could make life difficult for Derrick Wilson.

Other names to keep an eye on include Austin Chatman, Janenns Manigat, Will Artino and Avery Dingman. This is a deep Creighton team with numerous options outside of McDermott. Still, if the reigning All-American goes off it will mean real trouble for Marquette.

WHAT THE BLUEJAYS DO WELL

— As a team, the Bluejays are shooting 49.2 percent from the field, tied for 18th best in the nation. Per Ken Pom, they are the second most efficient team in the country and are making nearly 44 percent of their 3-pointers, the third best mark in the land. Simply put, when the Bluejays shoot the ball it usually goes in.

— They’re also taking care of the ball. Their 15.8 turnover percentage is 42nd best in the country, and they are averaging just 10.7 turnovers per game, best in the Big East. An experienced group is doing a solid job on offense, and not losing possessions for McDermott always yields gains.

— They find McDermott. He’s arguably the country’s best offensive player, and the Bluejays do a solid job getting him the ball. He has attempted at least 11 shots in every game, gone to the free throw line 10 or more times three times and has made a 3-pointer in all but two games. He’s going to shoot early and often, and do it well.

— Creighton is assisting on 67 percent of their made baskets, the 3rd best mark in the country. Led by Gibbs, Brooks and Chatman in the backcourt, the Bluejays are finding open shooters who are rewarding passers with made baskets. This is a fun offense to watch.

WHERE THE BLUEJAYS STRUGGLE

— Defensively the Bluejays are just average. Their efficiency (64th best), turnover rate-against (267th best) and block percentage (309th best) leave plenty to be desired. There isn’t a heap of athleticism on the roster — they make up for it with the aforementioned offensive efficiency — and it may allow Marquette to get out and run.

— It’s risky business relying on 3-pointers (even when you hit 44 percent of them), and only seven teams shoot more 3-pointers, relative to their total attempts. In their loss to San Diego State, they scored a season-low 53 points and, not surprising, made just 7 of 25 3-pointers. Marquette’s defense is one of the best in the country, so hopefully that means closing out well and not allowing as many looks.

THREE KEYS TO THE GAME

1. Limit McDermott

Don’t bother stopping him or even slowing him down. He takes too many shots and uses too many possessions to hold him under 20 points. Instead, the key will be not allowing him to get to the free throw line and forcing him into tough shots. If Jamil Wilson plays, he’ll get the first stab. Still, Juan Anderson could be an x-factor in this matchup, given his superb defensive play this season.

2. Play aggressively on defense

Marquette has a 10.8 steal percentage, 48th best in the country. They’re playing well in transition on offense, too. Putting that together, if the Golden Eagles can play passing lanes, get in Gibbs’ grill and force a few extra turnovers it will go a long way. This is one game where Buzz Williams may be better off pushing the tempo. That starts with turnovers and missed baskets from Creighton. So stay aggressive.

3. Davante Gardner’s time to shine

Ox has been a mixed bag through 13 games. He had a great stretch on the West Coast, averaging 18.6 points in a three-game stretch. But in his last three, he’s averaged just 9.3 points on just 20 total attempts and six total free throw attempts. He won’t match McDermott point-for-point, but tonight is a chance for Marquette’s best offensive player to shine on a national stage.

PREDICTION

Marquette hasn’t faced a player as good as McDermott this season, and seeing that the Bluejays are at home (where they’re 36-4 the last three seasons) gives him a great chance to maintain his All-American season. Given that Jamil Wilson will be at less than 100 percent if he plays, the Golden Eagles will be forced to rely on Gardner, Todd Mayo and Deonte Burton for offense. That’s tough sledding on the road, even as good as the Golden Eagles have been defensively. PREDICTION: Creighton 71, Marquette 59

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One Comment on “Scouting Report: Bluejays roll with Doug McDermott”

  1. John Osgood
    January 3, 2014 at 3:17 am #

    Following the Creighton game, moving forward I would start JJJ, JWil, Burton, Mayo, & Otule. Gardner would be first off the bench, and for the most part it would be a point-guard-by-committee situation. DWil, Jake, & Juan are very good at very specific things (defense, 3s, & rebounding, respectively), which alone should not earn you a starting roster spot in Big East basketball, but they could be used in specific situations or to spell the stars when needed. None of these guys can score with any consistency, and outside of Jake’s 3s, they really can’t score at all. Everyone keeps harping on Gardner for not scoring more, but it’s impossible to even get him the ball when DWil and Juan’s defenders sag so far off of them that they’re practically fronting Gardner at the same time. When Burton and JJJ come into the game, MU basketball is exciting for once at least! At an extraordinarily underwhelming 8 – 6 record with no good wins (I can’t count GW…sorry), what does Buzz have to lose by mixing up the starting lineup? We’re not even in the second four out right now in bracketology! We must be the only team in the country that has our 7th, 8th, and 9th best players in the starting lineup, and it is agonizing to watch MU get out to a painfully slow start in EVERY SINGLE GAME.

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