On the eve of No. 6 Villanova's matchup with Big East opponent DePaul, Jay Wright had more on his mind then the streaking Blue Devils.
The Wildcats head coach was worried about facing DePaul, but these were his usual pre-game doubts, his way of showing respect to his opponent. And while many have already pegged Villanova the winner of Saturday's contest, Monday's game features No. 20 Creighton and their stud swingman Doug McDermott, a player Wright anointed as the country's best prospect.
"I think he's the best player in the country, I really do," Wright said during a media availability Friday morning. "An example of his respect is that player's his age respect him and pay their dues"
The preseason All-American selection by the Associated Press, an Oscar Robertson Trophy finalist and Creighton's Male Athlete of the Year, McDermott is scorching the net every time he releases the ball. The 6-foot-8 senior swingman is averaging 25.2 points, 7.2 rebounds and is shooting 45 percent from deep and a hair under 50 percent from the field.
A guard opposing players refer to as "Dougie McBuckets," has not only gained the respect of Wright, but also the 15-1 Wildcats, a team McDermott will test in a few days.
"I respect that our players respect him," Wright said. "I'm very impressed that our players like his game. I love his combination of skill and intelligence. It seems like he rarely takes a bad shot. I really like that our players like that kind of player, it shows something about our guys high IQ."
Respect or not, the Wildcats (4-0 in Big East) still have to get past DePaul before watching tape on McDermott and No. 20 Creighton (15-2, 5-0 Big East), something Wright said he hasn't done enough of yet.
And with the Blue Devils coming off impressive wins over Butler (99-94 in double overtime at Butler) and St. John's (77-75 win at home), the Wildcats should be more nervous about playing DePaul than worrying about one of the country's top players at the moment after nearly a week without any game action.
"In the old Big East we had a lot of [back-to-back games] so it's actually not bad," Wright said when asked about the difficulty of playing so frequently. "I kind of like it. but I'm concerned for our guys this Saturday because they haven't played in a while. I'm worried about the Saturday game more than the Monday game."
But Wright did have some comments about the Blue Jays despite his focus being currently on DePaul. Though, it wasn't his most confident one.
"One of the things that makes them so difficult to play is that you are going to have a matchup problem somewhere," Wright admitted after a long sigh. "McDermott himself is a nightmare. I haven't been able to watch enough film. But I don't think we match up too well against them."
And despite all the criticism that McDermott receives - the comparisons to Jimmer Fredette and Gordan Hayward, his lack of athleticism, questions about his quickness and speed on the court, if he can guard NBA level forwards and more - McDermott has a consistent believer in Wright.
Amongst all the discussion about players' skill sets translating to the NBA in a much quicker game, with more athletic players, Wright isn't concerned about the odds. He's convinced that McDermott won't only play at the next level, but that he'll shine when the lights are on.
"No question," Wright responded when asked if McDermott could compete in the NBA. "I was a part of the NBA developmental squad that Coach K put together last summer when they brought the young players out for the next olympic team and I watched him play against the current NBA players. And he was on their level. Last year he was on their level. He was getting his shot off against those guys. If I hadn't seen that I wouldn't be as confident, but after that. I'm very sure he can play at the next level."
- Wright on the best player in practice this week: "James Bell has been playing well. The question is how to get him going, and he's been playing extremely well this week. Daniel Ochefu has been performing as well."
- On Ochefu's play this season: "Daniel is a big part of our defense and I'm really pleased with his work on the offensive end and the defensive end. Sometimes we would play him more minutes if the game dictated that. I was going to put him in the St. John's game and we took a five point lead and then I held him. We need to have him on the floor."
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