How Another Early Exit from NCAA Tournament Impacts Doug McDermott's Legacy

Thad NovakCorrespondent IMarch 23, 2014

USA Today

Doug McDermott has enjoyed one of the greatest individual careers of any college player in the last quarter-century. Unfortunately for his Creighton team, the top Bluejay managed to end his final season by laying an egg in the NCAA tournament.

McDermott looked utterly lost against Baylor’s shifting zone defense, finishing with 15 points and zero three-pointers as the Bears won an 85-55 blowout. The Division I scoring champ, who’d averaged 26.9 points per game, hadn’t been held below 20 since Jan. 25.

The nightmarish finish isn’t the first rough ending to a season for the smooth-shooting forward, either. He closes his four-year career having never played in a Sweet 16 after losing to Duke and North Carolina in his previous two Round of 32 appearances.

McDermott's father Greg, the Bluejays head coach, did his best to look on the bright side for his son, saying in a postgame press conference (via Creighton sports information director Rob Anderson), "This [loss] can't be what our seniors remember because they've had incredible careers." In Doug's case, "incredible" is an understatement after one of the most decorated four-year spans in the history of any mid-major program.

Still, Sunday's defeat costs McDermott what might’ve been a great chance to set himself apart from many of the other great pure scorers of college hoops lore. At 3,150 points, he finishes in fifth place all-time, but like overall leader Pete Maravich or Bradley legend Hersey Hawkins (in eighth place), he had very little team success to show for his brilliance.

In the regular season, McDermott’s Bluejays were routinely outstanding, winning the Missouri Valley in 2012-13 (and its tournament in both 2011-12 and 2012-13) before finishing a strong second in their Big East debut. However, the same reliance on their coach’s son that served them so well in those games became their undoing in the postseason.

Twenty-one McDermott points weren't nearly enough to beat Duke in 2013.
Twenty-one McDermott points weren't nearly enough to beat Duke in 2013.Eileen Blass-USA TODAY Sports

For all the discussion of Creighton’s lack of defense, it’s the offense that kept McDermott out of the Sweet 16. A Bluejays team that routinely averaged 80 points a night scored 73, 50 and 55 in being eliminated from three straight NCAA tournaments.

As great as McDermott is, he has to shoulder most of the blame there. When his own offensive firepower wasn’t helping create openings for his teammates, Creighton just wasn’t much of a team, and high-level opponents took advantage.

That’s not to say that he doesn’t belong in the pantheon of the most devastating offensive weapons in history. Indeed, it makes him right at home there. From Maravich (who never even played in a Big Dance) to Hawkins (one tourney win in four seasons) to Gonzaga’s Adam Morrison (with his oft-replayed tearful exit from March Madness as a senior), the nation’s elite individual scorers have almost never played for postseason winners.

In that context, McDermott will be judged purely by his numbers. In terms of both point production and his amazing shooting accuracy, he can put up his one-man-show credentials against anyone since Lionel Simmons graduated from La Salle in 1990.

One CBS Sports analyst sums up what many college-hoops observers are thinking after this game:

It’s just a pity McDermott was never able to evolve into the kind of player who could bring a few more wins to the other four guys in Creighton uniforms before the curtain came down on his highlight-filled career.