For all the tragicomedy and Sturm und Drang of the past several years of the Conference Realignment/Cash Grab Bonanza at the university level, Thursday afternoon brought an interesting individual byproduct: a player who may have turned down immediate money principally because of it.
Doug McDermott is the latest high-profile collegian to decide campus is the right place to be for another year, announcing that he will be returning to Creighton for his senior season. Perhaps not so coincidentally, that season will be Creighton's debut in the newfangled Big East.
McDermott, a first-team All-America this past season, was surprisingly undervalued in mock drafts, with the consensus opinion that he wasn't even a first-round prospect. Another season in the Missouri Valley, where he was the two-time defending player of the year, wasn't going to do anything to help him, and Creighton, for all of its qualities, is not the kind of program that lands a bunch of marquee non-conference TV games in which McDermott could show off his talents. As things stood, there was nothing left for him to accomplish at the college level other than progress deeper in the NCAA tournament, which is always a very variable exercise.
McDermott has already proven to a large extent that he can dominate against high-major opposition. Just this past season, he dropped 30 points and eight rebounds on Wisconsin, 29 and nine on Arizona State, 27 points on Nebraska and 34 and nine on Cal. Oh, and none of those games were at home. He also had 20 and nine against top-seeded North Carolina in the 2012 NCAA tournament and 21 and nine against Duke in a Round of 32 loss last month. In effect, McDermott has established he can score on practically anyone.
What he hasn't had the chance to show yet, though, is that kind of consistent dominance against a high-major league schedule. Now, McDermott will get round-robin conference cracks at Marquette, Georgetown, Butler, Xavier and other teams with the kind of athletes that the Missouri Valley simply doesn't have in quantity. He now has a chance to further validate his talents for those who need convincing. McDermott's repressed draft status is because of the perception that he's a tweener -- a college power forward who isn't big enough to play that position in the NBA and isn't quick enough to play small forward. He's certainly not a defensive standout at this stage of his career, either. Because of the conference switch, McDermott will have the opportunity to provide better answers to those questions. Mix in playing for his father and the returning talent on the Bluejays' roster, and coming back for his senior season looks to be a savvy gamble for an excellent player.