Dave Boling: Look into my eyes; you are a chicken, er, NCAA champion

dave.boling@thenewstribune.comMarch 18, 2014 

Some NCAA tournament predictions:

 • If presumptive national player of the year Doug McDermott can lead his Creighton Bluejays deep into the tournament, by next season, hypnotherapy will be as common in locker rooms as ice packs and orange slices.

McDermott leads the nation in scoring, and the Bluejays are a No. 3 seed in the West Region. He’s a versatile 6-foot-8 forward who has shot 46 percent in his career from outside the 3-point arc.

And he’s got the tournament’s best nickname: Dougie McBuckets.

Critics say that few players in the country have their heads in the game as well as Mr. McBuckets. Now we know why.

Since December of 2010, McDermott has been getting hypnotized before every game. Recent publications have explained the process, which clears his mind of stress and fills it with positive recollections and images.

I suspect there’s also the occasional whisper: When I snap my fingers, you’ll believe you’re Larry Bird.

It’s helped him score more than 3,000 points in his career, and he still has time to rise from his standing as the NCAA’s No. 5 all-time scorer.

But how will the hypnotherapy community deal with the potential rise in demand during basketball season?

Surely, some of the smaller schools will be reduced to hiring the guys from the Vegas lounge acts. Watch next season for games in which whole teams respond to a ref’s whistle by clucking like

chickens.

 • A No. 4 seed will win this tournament for the first time since Arizona in 1997.

I’d say it will be Louisville, but Michigan State has a shot, too. Both seem badly under-seeded.

Computer whiz/statistician Nate Silver picks Michigan State, but concedes a bias as a native of East Lansing, Mich. His computer, though, gives Louisville a 15 percent chance to win the tournament – the highest likelihood in the field.

Louisville is not only the defending champ, but it’s also on a hot streak – including a sweep through the American Athletic Conference tournament with wins averaging a 30-point margin.

Michigan State, meanwhile, is finally healthy and bopped eighth-ranked Michigan, 69-55, to win the Big Ten tournament after dumping No. 12 Wisconsin in the semis.

 • Last season, in the four matchups between No. 5 seeds and No. 12 seeds, three of the underdogs won. There were also three such upsets in ’09 and ’02.

I’m calling No. 12 Harvard over Cincinnati this time around. As a 14th seed last season, Harvard stunned No. 3-seeded New Mexico. Harvard players don’t forget.

 • Wichita State was the upstart underdog of the last tournament, getting to the Final Four as a No. 9 seed. It was no fluke, as they upended No. 1 Gonzaga and then No. 2 Ohio State in the West Region final before the narrow 72-68 loss to Louisville in the national semifinals.

The Shockers are 34-0 and a No. 1 seed this time but would face a potential gauntlet of Kentucky, Louisville and Michigan to get to the Final Four this year.

Should they accomplish that, it might be a shock nearly as big as last season’s.

 • It’s hard to believe that it’s Tony Bennett’s fifth season at Virginia. While Washington State’s fortunes have flagged since his departure, the job he has done at in Charlottesville has been stunning.

Bennett’s Cavaliers validated their Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season title with an ACC tournament championship, topping Duke 72-63. Virginia has lost only once, at Maryland in overtime, since mid-January.

Relying on the Bennett family trademark – defense – the Cavaliers hold opponents to an NCAA-low 55.3 points a game. No team has hit 70 points in regulation against Virginia since December.

This team can control the tempo of any game. It keeps every game close, and causes opponents to get impatient and make mistakes.

Or maybe they just get lulled to sleep.

Almost like being hypnotized.

Dave Boling: 253-597-8440 dave.boling@thenewstribune.com @DaveBoling

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