2015 Final Four Preview: Who Will Advance to Title Game?
This year's Final Four in Indianapolis is going to be epic with Kentucky, Wisconsin, Duke and Michigan State.
The four best teams in the country are three number-one seeds, and Michigan State, who is a seven-seed. (The Spartans don't seem like a seven-seed, though).
John Calipari, Bo Ryan, Mike Krzyzewski and Tom Izzo are all likely Hall of Fame bound. Calipari, Ryan, Krzyzewski and Izzo have been to a combined 24 Final Four appearances and have won six national titles. Not to mention, the four coaches have won a combined 2,489 career games.
Wait, there's more storylines. Kentucky's chasing perfection. Wisconsin is looking for revenge after Aaron Harrison dashed the Badgers hopes last year in the Final Four by nailing a three-pointer in the final seconds. Michigan State is a seven seed, who lost to Texas Southern back in December, but then took Wisconsin to overtime in the Big Ten Championship to reel into the Big Dance. Duke is led by Jahlil Okafor, the potential top pick in the NBA Draft later this summer.
To be frank, (not Frank Kaminsky), I'm jealous I went to last year's Final Four and wish I was going again this year. I guess I will have to settle with my couch, television and a bowl of popcorn.
Duke and Michigan State is the first match-up of Saturday's Final Four and will tip-off at 5:09 CDT on CBS.
If you're a college basketball fan, you're not surprised about this match-up, either.
The Blue Devils beat the Spartans, 81-71, earlier this season on November 18. Since then, Michigan State lost to Kansas by five, lost to Notre Dame by one in overtime and took the Badgers to overtime in the Big Ten title game. In the NCAA tournament, the Spartans beat Georgia, Virginia, Oklahoma and Louisville on their way to Lucas Oil Stadium.
To make a comparison, last year's NCAA champion was Connecticut, who also was a seven-seed. What's even more wacky is both the Spartans and Huskies were ranked No. 18 in the preseason, finished third in their respective conference's with a 12-6 record. On their way to Final Four bids, Michigan State and Connecticut beat a No. 10, No. 2, No. 3 and then a No. 4 seed. The Huskies beat Kentucky, who knocked off Wisconsin. In 2015, Kentucky and Wisconsin are on the other side of the bracket, too. Destiny or coincidence?
Duke is 33-4 on the season and beat Robert Morris, San Diego State, Utah and Gonzaga on their way to the Final Four. The Blue Devils rank fourth in the country by scoring 80.6 points per game. But defense ruled in their win over Gonzaga. Duke held the Bulldogs, who were one of the nation's most efficient offensive teams, to 14 points in the final 16 minutes of the game. The Blue Devils are led by three freshman, Okafor, Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones. But Duke has more than freshman, too. Senior Quinn Cook leads one of the nation's best backcourt with Jones. In the front court, upperclassman Marshall Plumlee and Amile Jefferson have provided good minutes in the Big Dance, too.
Oh and the last time the Final Four was in Indianapolis, the Blue Devils cut down the nets in 2010 against Butler. Will there be deja blue, or I mean deja vu?
Kentucky and Wisconsin tip-off after Duke and Michigan State in Indianapolis.
Last year, I was at this classic in Dallas between the Wildcats and Badgers. I still get goosebumps after watching Harrison help Kentucky end Wisconsin's run with a deep three-pointer.
It left a sour taste in the Badgers' mouths and was the reason why Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker came back to school instead of going pro. After trailing at halftime against Arizona, Dekker hit four three-pointers in the second half to help the Badgers beat the Wildcats for a second straight year in the Elite Eight. Kaminsky scored 29, while Dekker contributed 27 in Wisconsin's Elite Eight win. None was bigger than Dekker's rainbow trey in the closing minutes, which proved to be the dagger against Arizona.
For the Badgers to get sweet revenge on Kentucky, they'll need Kaminsky and Dekker again to be huge and for Nigel Hayes to stay out of foul trouble. Wisconsin will also have to force Karl Anthony-Towns into foul trouble, much like they did to Stanley Johnson, Brandon Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski.
The Wildcats may be the Monstars of college basketball. Kentucky is the first team to have a 38-0 record and is looking to be the first college basketball team to finish with a 40-0 record. The Wildcats edged Notre Dame after Harrison came through in the clutch again with another big three-pointer. Kentucky avoided Jerian Grant hitting, which would have quite possibly replaced Christian Laettner's basket, as the greatest shot in college basketball history.
Calipari's Wildcats are deep and long. They are battle tested. Kentucky beat Ole Miss in overtime and Texas A&M in double overtime and then beat LSU by two points in the regular season. Kentucky beat Hampton, Cincinnati, West Virginia and Notre Dame to reach the Final Four. Towns, Willie Cauley-Stein and Trey Lyles lead the Wildcats with a monster front court. The Harrison twins, along with Tyler Ulis lead Kentucky with a talented and experienced back court.
Towns scored 25 points against the Irish, but got in foul trouble. On Saturday, he'll have to stay out of foul trouble and attack Kaminsky.
Duke 67, Michigan State 63. Kentucky 68, Wisconsin 64.
Krzyzewski's Blue Devils end Izzo's magical run with the Spartans, while the depth and length of Kentucky beats Wisconsin in another classic.