San Antonio, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - The legacy of Doug McDermott hangs in the balance, as the Creighton star leads his Bluejays into battle against the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
The first player in NCAA history to be named the player of the year in two different conferences, the Missouri Valley and Big East, McDermott has served his father and head coach Greg McDermott faithfully over the course of four years. This season, Creighton made the transition from the MVC to the Big East and did so almost seamlessly. Currently ranked 16th in the AP Poll, the Jays finished second in the league standings behind only Villanova, but many might argue Creighton was the superior team given that the only two conference setbacks by the Wildcats came against the Jays.
Creighton, the third seed in the West Region this year, did stumble a few times in the month of March however, losing to both Xavier and Georgetown on the road, but still made it to the conference tournament finals after defeating both DePaul (84-62) and the aforementioned Musketeers (86-78). However, the Jays were stunned by Providence in the championship round, 65-58, with the 58 points being the second-lowest output of the season behind the 53 tallied against George Washington in a surprising loss at the start of December.
The Bluejays are enjoying a run of six straight years with at least one postseason victory as they make their 19th appearance in the NCAA Tournament overall and the 10th in the last 16 years. The squad has a record of 11-19 in the event all-time, thanks to a win against Cincinnati (67-63) in Philadelphia last year, before bowing to Duke (66-50).
As for the 14th-seeded Ragin' Cajuns, representatives from the Sun Belt Conference, they reached the 20-win plateau in 2013-14 for the first time in more than a decade, with their 23 victories being the most since the squad put up a 25-9 mark in 1999-2000. The squad finished third in the regular-season standings with 11 wins in 18 chances, but they were the last ones standing once the conference tournament concluded on Sunday.
Louisiana took out Texas-Arlington in the quarterfinals of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament a week ago, 91-85, followed that up with a narrow 73-72 triumph over Western Kentucky a day later, and then finished the run with an 82-81 overtime affair versus top-seeded Georgia State.
According to official NCAA records, the Ragin' Cajuns have a record of just 1-5 in this tournament over the years, after having appearances in 1972-1973, 2004-2005 all vacated. As a result, the last time the team officially appeared in the tournament was in 2000.
In terms of the all-time series between the programs, the squads have split four previous encounters, the most recent of those coming three seasons ago in Omaha where the Jays held on for a 63-58 victory. In that game, McDermott was playing just his third game for Creighton and finished with 12 points and six rebounds.
The winner this time around will head to the third round of regional action on Sunday to take on the survivor of the Nebraska/Baylor meeting.
As the only player to have started all 34 games for the Ragin' Cajuns this season, it only makes sense that Elfrid Payton, a member of the All-Sun Belt First Team, leads the program in scoring with 19.1 ppg. While he is shooting a strong 51.1 percent from the field, his 26.0 percent behind the 3-point line and mere 61.1 percent accuracy at the free-throw line means Payton has left quite a few points unrealized. However, he's probably forgiven for those missteps since he leads the program in assists (2-5) and steals (77) and is second on the glass with 5.9 rpg.
Shawn Long, who joins Payton as an all-conference performer, is one of only a handful of players nationally who is averaging a double-double, putting up 18.7 ppg and pulling down 10.5 rpg. Unfortunately, once Long gets the ball into his hands, teammates rarely expect to see him set them up for scoring opportunities, as he's logged a mere 19 assists, against 72 turnovers. Although, he does counter that aspect of his game by registering an impressive 89 blocked shots.
One of then most decorated players in the history of college basketball, it is nearly impossible to list all of the accomplishments of McDermott, but it should be noted that the All-America standout was recognized as the top player in the Big East this season as he led the nation in scoring with 26.9 ppg. A clutch player who has knocked down three game-winning shots on the campaign, McDermott now ranks fifth on the NCAA's all-time scoring list with 3,105 points, needing just 11 more points to put him 1,000 ahead of his closest competition in the history of Creighton basketball (Rodney Buford).
As if being a scoring machine were not enough McDermott, who has a career average of 21.7 ppg while starting every single one of the 143 games in which he has appeared, is also leading the Jays in rebounding this season with 7.0 rpg, which is actually below his career mark of 7.5 rpg. On a team that is generating 79.5 ppg and outscoring the competition by 12.1 ppg, McDermott may be the focal point of every foe's defensive game plan, but Ethan Wragge (10.5 ppg) is someone who should not be overlooked, given that he is the top 3-point producer (104-of-220) who has created mismatches for more than a few teams.