- Eamonn Brennan, ESPN Staff Writer
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1. Doug McDermott, Creighton: The Arbitrarily Capitalized Doug McDermott Awesomeness Tracker will be shorter than usual this week, and not just because we here at ACMcDAT Industries are wary of repeating the same mind-bending statistics week in and week out. But there are a few nuggets worth passing along:
Last Friday, McDermott scored 32 points at DePaul. Two days later, he dropped 25 on 10-of-18 shooting at St. John’s. The Bluejays lost that game -- you may light your standard-issue ACMcDat Vigil Candles now -- but that two-day stretch of work made McDermott the first player in more than two decades to score more than 1,000 field goals in a career. He’s at 1,011 and counting.
Here’s a good bit of context on McDermott’s insane combination of efficiency and usage from SI.com’s Luke Winn: “In the past 10 seasons, in the major conferences and Mountain West, only six players have attempted more than 36 percent of their team's shots. Creighton's Doug McDermott is one of those players. And he's the most efficient one of those players, by a good margin. Are you at all surprised?” McDermott averages 37.9 percent of his team’s shots, third-most in the country.
And finally, from Creighton SID Rob Anderson: “Doug McDermott’s been Big East Player of the Week six times already this year, tying a conference mark first set by John Wallace and Troy Murphy. He’s been named MVC Newcomer of the Week (7), MVC Player of the Week (13) or Big East Player of the Week (6) a combined 26 times in his 62-week in-season career.” That’s pretty good, we guess.
One last thing: Thursday night, Creighton plays at Butler. The Bulldogs aren’t very good this season, but I don’t care: If you live in the Indianapolis area and don’t plan to go see McDermott’s one and only trip to Hinkle Fieldhouse, you are not a very good basketball fan. That is all.
2. Jabari Parker, Duke: Does the weather know no bounds? Does it, at long last, have no decency? I’m pretty sure Dick Vitale has never been photographed not smiling in his life, and now look, weather! Look what you did! Look at how filtered and sad this Instagram photo is! On Wednesday night, decidedly gross road conditions throughout the Southeast postponed Duke’s trip to North Carolina. Not only did this weather delay Parker’s first and likely only trip to the Dean Dome, it turned Dickie V’s Instagram into a Bill Callahan album cover. Stupid weather, ruining everything.
3. Nick Johnson, Arizona: Arizona’s first two games in the post-Brandon Ashley era did nothing to hurt Johnson’s player of the year stock: He averaged 14 points in each and played 39 minutes (and made 8 of 11 from the free throw line) in Thursday’s tight win over Oregon. It’s going to be interesting to see what Arizona looks like without Ashley, how Sean Miller tweaks his previously dominant group. But whatever he does, Johnson will have to be a major part of it -- perhaps even more so than before -- for the Wildcats to maintain their national title aspirations.
4a. C.J. Fair, Syracuse
4b. Tyler Ennis, Syracuse
In the early weeks of Wooden Watch, Fair earned Syracuse’s POY place. Then, as Ennis emerged as one of the best players in the country, he took the spot. For the past few weeks, Fair has reclaimed the throne and held firm, and for good reason: He plays 93 percent of Syracuse’s available minutes, is integral to what the Orange do on both sides of the ball and was unstoppable in that 91-89 OT win over Duke. Plus, Jim Boeheim called him the best player on his team, and I am not in the business of arguing with Boeheim.
Now, barely 12 hours after the 35-foot 3-pointer Ennis hit to sink Pittsburgh at the Pete, the Watch has made an executive decision: Why not both?
Fair might be the wire-to-wire workhorse, but the numbers Ennis has put up (121.0 offensive rating, 32.3 percent assist rate, 13.3 turnover rate, 4.1 steals percentage, etc.) are (A) great in their own general right, and (B) utterly insane in crunch time. Per ESPN Stats and Info: "In one-possession games (when the score is within three points) in the final five minutes of the second half and overtime this season, Ennis is now 8-of-9 from the field, including the game-winning 3-point field goal as time expired against Pittsburgh, and 14-of-14 from the free throw line.” Not only did Ennis make the game-winning 3 Wednesday, he also coolly sank the go-ahead free throws with 14 seconds left. He is Syracuse’s closer, and the Orange are 24-0. I say we shouldn’t have to choose between Ennis and Fair. They both belong.
5. Xavier Thames, San Diego State: San Diego State suffered its first loss since Nov. 14 on Tuesday night, falling 68-62 at Wyoming. Laramie, Wyo., is a tough place to play, and the Aztecs were bound to lose eventually. No big deal.
6. Cleanthony Early, Wichita State: How great is Gregg Marshall? The Wichita State coach was a special guest on ESPN’s studio coverage during Syracuse-Pittsburgh on Wednesday night, and not only did he reject the kind-of-silly notion that his unbeaten Shockers “need” to lose before they get to the NCAA tournament, he also openly rooted against Syracuse. The man wants to be undefeated. He invites the pressure of it all. He knows his players -- Early chief among them -- are more than capable of handling it.
7. Russ Smith, Louisville: Nothing has changed since November: Smith is still one of the best players in the country on both offense and defense. He’s still having the best season of his career by a wide margin. And thanks to some circumstances outside his control (such as Louisville not being best team in the country) and some inside of it (his unique ability to draw Rick Pitino’s vocal postgame frustration), he's still not getting the wide-ranging national player of the year love he deserves. Such is the curse of Russdiculous.
8. Julius Randle, Kentucky: What was that about nothing changing? Randle has, save a few blips here and there, been his same dominant, interior self from the get-go. Saturday’s visit from Florida should help us freshen our copy a bit. It’s getting really hard to overanalyze the Wildcats at this point. Quick, Coach Calipari, say something crazy!
9. Shabazz Napier, Connecticut: The Watch left Napier in its honorable mentions field last week, drawing the ire of Connecticut fans and bearded hoops correspondents alike. The Watch would like to go on record saying that you guys did not influence the process, because sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hu... OK, fine, you were right. With rare exceptions -- such as last week’s loss to Cincinnati -- Napier’s individual season has been uncommonly good, even as the Huskies have occasionally dipped their toes into mediocre waters. But how blah would they be without him? He absolutely belongs here.
10. Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati: Cincinnati took one on the chin at SMU on Saturday, which makes this a slightly awkward time for Kilpatrick to leapfrog Lamar Patterson, Joel Embiid, Nik Stauskas et al, but oh well. SMU is really good, and anyway, Kilpatrick is a lot like Thames: not only an elite defender, but a super-efficient offensive option on a team that desperately needs him to be both.
Honorable mentions: Lamar Patterson (Pittsburgh), Nik Stauskas (Michigan), Joel Embiid (Kansas), Andrew Wiggins (Kansas), DeAndre Kane (Iowa State), Casey Prather (Florida), Cameron Bairstow (New Mexico), Adreian Payne (Michigan State), Kyle Anderson (UCLA), Alan Williams (UC-Santa Barbara at Pomeroy)