Creighton's Doug McDermott rises from obscurity to projected NBA first-round pick

Doug McDermott of the Creighton Bluejays celebrates one Doug McDermott of the Creighton Bluejays celebrates one of his three-point shots in the first half against the DePaul Blue Demons during the quarterfinals of the Big East Basketball Tournament at Madison Square Garden on March 13, 2014. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Elsa

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Here was another mathematical constant to consider on Pi Day Friday night: The fairly irrational numbers, which never seem to end, being produced by Creighton University's copious scoring machine, Doug McDermott.

With his school's migration into the Big East this season, McDermott's debut in the conference tournament Thursday night resulted in the most prolific first-game player totals in the event's 35-year history.

It is true that McDermott's 35 points against DePaul -- and 32 in Friday night's 86-78 semifinal victory over Xavier -- were boosted by the existence of a three-point line, not introduced by the NCAA until 1986. But McDermott's devastating use of the home-run ball (9-for-16 in the tournament, 89-for-195 this season) and the ease with which he finds a preferred shot have established him as the favorite for college player of the year.

His average of 26.8 points per game leads the nation. Sports Illustrated put him on its March Madness cover and emphasized his status by restaging its 1977 cover of Larry Bird.

And now Creighton will face Providence Saturday night for the Big East championship.

DePaul coach Oliver Purnell, one in a crowd of opposing coaches who have declared McDermott the land's best collegiate player, lamented after Thursday's game how a double-team of the 6-8 star leads to his finding an open teammate.

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"Then we put a big on him and he goes out and shoots threes," Purnell said. "So he makes it hard. And he gets a few stick-backs to boot."

Back home in Omaha, declarations of McDermott's skills include comparisons to Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Gibson, a good enough Creighton basketball player to have spent time as a Harlem Globetrotter.

McDermott not only has accounted for almost 30 percent of Creighton's scoring during the past four years -- while becoming the first three-year first-team All-American since Georgetown's Patrick Ewing and Oklahoma's Wayman Tisdale in the mid-1980s -- but his must-see basketball skills have increased Creighton's home attendance almost 4,000 per game, many of them sellouts.

Assuming Creighton would not have advanced to the NCAA Tournament's round of 32 the previous two seasons without McDermott, it also might be argued that he has brought about $1.5 million to his school in postseason payouts.

Not bad for a lad who didn't start for his high school team until his junior year and was headed to relatively obscure Northern Iowa, where his father, Greg, used to coach. Greg took the Creighton job in 2010.

Doug has said his original expectations didn't go beyond being a "contributor" on a college team. Instead, when a last-summer injury waiver permitted teammate Grant Gibbs to play a final year, it pushed the school over its scholarship limit, and the fellow who relinquished his senior-year free ride was McDermott.

Said Gibbs, "I made Doug the best walk-on in the history of college basketball."

On senior night, McDermott kidded that his mother was tired of paying his tuition. She'll get the money back: Basketball experts see her son as an NBA first-round draft pick.

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