College basketball has gone H.A.M. in its first two months.
Nonconference drama preceded confusion and chaos in the early stages of various league races. This past weekend’s upsets offered more proof that there’s still a multitude of unknowns in most of the major conferences.
With all of the intrigue, however, the national landscape is still missing one key element that enticed the casual fan throughout the 2010-11 campaign.
College basketball needs a Jimmer, especially after college football wraps up Monday night and the sports world turns its attention toward the better sport.
You know a likeable stat-machine with a cool backstory (catchy name optional) who doesn’t hail from a traditional powerhouse. Well, a few players from off-the-radar, yet successful programs have put up some impressive numbers thus far. If they could only change their names …
Searching for Jimmer
Doug McDermott – America will soon fall for Creighton’s star. He scored 44 points in a win at Bradley on Saturday. And he’s No. 2 in the country with 25.2 ppg. Plus, he’s averaging 8.3 rpg and shooting 86 percent from the free throw line. But big numbers don’t guarantee elevation to the main stage. McDermott’s tale, however, should. In high school, he was known as Harrison Barnes’ teammate. Then, he joined his father’s collegiate program and Pops told him that he’d probably redshirt his freshman year. A few guys get hurt, McDermott gets a shot, and by the end of the season he’s All-MVC. This season, he’s led Creighton to a national ranking and the spotlight that comes with it. His first name is ordinary. But his game isn’t. FYI: The bandwagon is filling up.
Isaiah Canaan – If Murray State had played more nationally televised games during its remarkable stretch of undefeated bliss, Canaan’s buzz would be approaching Jimmer-like levels right now. He’s averaging 18.7 points and 4.1 assists for the 16-0 Racers. He dropped 35 in his team’s 87-75 victory at Austin Peay on Saturday. And how’s this for a story? While Hurricane Katrina ravaged Biloxi, Miss., Canaan and his grandmother fled to a nearby church as floodwaters rose. So the 6-0, 170-pound guard is a survivor. And his Murray State team might not lose for the next two months. If you don’t know him now, you will soon.
Damian Lillard – America’s leading scorer had impressed NBA scouts by scoring 19.7 ppg for Weber State last season. And then, a foot injury changed everything by sidelining him for the bulk of the season. But Lillard (26.3 ppg) bounced back with strenuous rehab that he documented through a video diary. Today, top NBA minds list Lillard as a first-round prospect for the 2012 NBA draft. The Wildcats are 12-3 and 4-0 in the Big Sky. Come Big Sky tourney time, Lillard’s hype will explode.