Bob Asmussen: I'm confident in Creighton
Way back in 1979, a young, pre-back pain Indiana transfer shot his team to the NCAA tournament title game.
Along the way, Larry Bird and Indiana State knocked off Virginia Tech, Oklahoma, Arkansas and DePaul.
It was the little school that could. Led by the star with endless range. Bird knew he was better than anybody else on the court.
Just like Doug McDermott.
The Creighton star and future National Player of the Year is about to pull a Bird. In 2014 that means five wins to reach the NCAA final. Not four.
McBuckets has more help than Bird did 35 years ago. Teams that try to stop McDermott catch a bad case of the Ethan Wragges. Or Jahenns Manigats. Or Austin Chatmans.
But McDermott is the star. If the team reaches the title game, it will be on his head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes. The nation’s leading scorer isn’t a ball hog. Far from it. He takes open shots in an offense designed to get him the ball. Nice to have your dad in charge.
McDermott would be a star at any school. He is that good. Like Bird, he seems to outwork everybody else. Like Bird, he seems to be in the right place at the right time and make the right decision. Every time.
The best walk-on in the history of college basketball (he gave up his scholarship for teammate Grant Gibbs) scored at least 30 points in 12 games. He needs five more of those to get his team to the title game.
The No. 5 scorer in men’s college basketball history will open with 32 against Louisiana-Lafayette in Friday’s opener. In the third-round game against the Baylor-Nebraska winner, it says here that No. 3 scores 35. And he’ll reach 37 in the Sweet 16 game against Wisconsin. San Diego State holds him to 30 in the regional final, but Wichita State has no answer for his 42 points in the semifinal.
By the time Creighton plays Florida in the final, McDermott becomes the talk of the nation. President Obama will talk about him on ESPN. Bono will write a song about him. A biography by J.K. Rowling will be announced. Big-time celebrity stuff.
But like Bird, McDermott won’t be able to beat a better team in the final. In 1979, it was Michigan State and Magic Johnson. In 2014, it will be Casey Prather and Florida.
How about the Big Ten?
Michigan State reaches the Final Four before losing to Florida. Duke bounces Michigan in the regional semifinal. Ohio State drops its opener to Dayton. And Wisconsin ends its run of early exits.
Not bad for Jim Delany’s favorite conference.
News-Gazette staff writer Bob Asmussen has been filling out brackets for years — with little success. His co-workers remind him often of the time he picked Southern Cal to win it all. Then, the Trojans lost in the first round. Asmussen must have thought it was football.