Villanova coach Jay Wright walked into a team meeting on Monday and asked his players if they had watched Creighton’s victory over Xavier the day before.
When they all said they had, Wright asked the Wildcats what the difference in the game was.
“Dougie McBuckets,” they all shouted, referring to Creighton senior Doug McDermott, who dropped 35 points on Xavier in the win.
“They respect him,” Wright said Friday. “Usually players at this age, they’re confident and cocky. They don’t want to give anybody their due. And I like that, but these guys really respect him.”
And what’s not to respect?
The 6-foot-8 McDermott is the Preseason Big East Player of the Year and the reigning conference Player of the Week. He’s averaging 24.9 points per game, second-best in Division 1.
“I don’t think anybody has the impact on their team that he does,” Wright said. “I don’t anybody’s a better player than he is.’
Creighton and Villanova were picked third and fourth, respectively, in the Big East preseason poll.
Yet here we are in mid-January and the two teams are clearly the cream of the crop in the conference, standing as the Big East’s only undefeated teams.
No. 6 Villanova (16-1, 5-0 Big East) remains the league’s lone unbeaten team after beating DePaul at home on Saturday, while No. 20 Creighton (15-3, 5-1) stumbled at Providence. The two teams will match up on Monday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
Wright and his players aren’t the only ones singing McDermott’s praises.
With all due respect to freshmen studs Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Julius Randle and Aaron Gordon, McDermott could be the most potent offensive force in the nation.
“He’s the best offensive player in the country, isn’t he?” one veteran NBA scout asked rhetorically.
DraftExpress.com currently has McDermott projected as the No. 12 pick in the Draft.
“I think he’s going to be a more of a Kyle Korver-type,” the NBA scout said. “I think he’s going to be a terrific player, but that type.
“He’s going to cover the weakest player on the floor defensively. When the NBA guys ask who he’s got on the other end, the answer is the weakest guy on the other team.”
Still, McDermott’s offensive skills are vast and impressive.
“I love his combination of skill and intelligence,” Wright said. “It seems like he rarely takes a bad shot. And sometimes if he takes a tough shot it’s at a good time. It keeps the defense honest or it’s at the end of a shot clock.”
Wright said he wasn’t certain if McDermott had an NBA future until last summer, when he helped coach him in the USA Basketball trials in Colorado Springs, Colo.
“I watched him play against the current NBA players and he was right on their level last summer,” Wright said. “He got his shot off against those guys, he defended those guys, he made shots against those guys. He made great decisions.
“If I hadn’t seen that I might not be sure, but I am very confident.”
Now he just has to figure a way to contain Dougie McBuckets on Monday night.