Monday, April 6, 2015
NCAA Men's Championship - Indianapolis, Indiana
Most fans probably wanted this game to be Kentucky versus Duke, but I'm happier with this matchup. Wisconsin proved what I long believed, that they were a better team than Kentucky. But all the good will from them ending Kentucky's bid at history will mean nothing if they don't finish the job tonight.
Duke trailed Michigan State 14-6 early in the Final Four and then completely dominated the game the rest of the way. It was quite obvious that the Spartans had nowhere near the caliber of player that Duke was throwing at them.
Wisconsin led Kentucky most of the way in their Final Four matchup but the Wildcats rallied late to take a four point lead. The Badgers didn't fold and Kentucky's offense was a comedy of errors the last few minutes, while Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky led the way for Wisconsin to pull off the "upset".
These teams played each other in December with Duke winning in Madison 80-70. However, I don't expect that game to mean much of anything tonight. Wisconsin is sky high after beating the Cats and Dekker has been shooting out of his mind in the NCAA Tournament. The Blue Devils have a hot player of their own, F Justise Winslow. Sparty had no answer for Winslow, along with any other team Duke has faced in the Tournament this year. After a quiet Sweet 16 and Elite 8, Jahlil Okafor resumed being one of the most dominant players in college basketball against Michigan State. Senior guard Quinn Cook had his fifth consecutive double digit scoring game and his second straight game with zero turnovers. Even bench player Grayson Allen got in on the scoring, including a classic white boy dunk. Allen will have zero impact on tonight's game and I expect both teams to exhaust their starters and leave it all out on the floor. The most intriguing matchup in this game will be the battle down low between Kaminsky and Okafor. Kaminsky had no problems against the bigs of Kentucky and has experience playing Okafor so there will be no intimidation factor. Winslow will have his hands full with Nigel Hayes and Dekker. Hayes was off and on against Kentucky and sometimes when he shoots the ball you want to scream at him for taking such a dumb shot. Dekker disappeared from the Badgers offense too much on Saturday, so Wisky has to a better job of keeping him constantly involved tonight.
Duke has the advantage at the guard position with Cook, Tyus and Matt Jones. Bronson Koenig made some big shots on Saturday but became a little too shot happy and at times messed up the flow of the Badgers offense. Josh Gasser didn't play very well on Saturday and with the skill that Duke has at the guard position he needs to be much better tonight. Traevon Jackson will see some time off the bench but he is still getting his flow of being back in the lineup, so Koenig should continue to receive the majority of the playing time.
Kaminsky, Dekker and Hayes will be able to neutralize Okafor and Winslow. I think Cook and the Jones' will have strong games tonight but I also think that Wisconsin will be able to force them into turnovers and also mitigate their impact. The people talking about how Wisconsin will have nothing left after beating Kentucky on Saturday are foolish. Kaminsky didn't come back this year to just beat Kentucky, he came back to win a title and will have plenty left to give to the Badgers. Wisconsin has won their last four tournament games by seven points so I am picking that streak to continue, as the Badgers win their first national championship in 74 years.
Prediction: Wisconsin 75, Duke 68