Who Will Win National Championship: Wisconsin or Duke?
Wisconsin ended Kentucky's perfect season, while Duke cruised to a comfortable win over Michigan State to advance to tonight's national championship game.
While Duke and Kentucky would have been a dream match-up for a title game, the Badgers and Blue Devils might be a just as good of a game as both teams are number-one seeds in the NCAA tournament.
The Badgers and Blue Devils last played December 3 in the Big Ten/ACC challenge. Duke shot 65 percent and won by 10, 80-70, in Madison, at the Kohl Center.
Duke is 34-4 and led by a trio of freshman (Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones), while Wisconsin is 36-3 and led by experience and upperclassman. Mike Krzyzewski is looking for his fifth title and Bo Ryan is searching for his first (Ryan has three at the Division III level).
Duke averages 80.6 points per game, and allows opponents to score 64.2 points per game. The Blue Devils' defense was spectacular against Gonzaga in the second half. Against Michigan State, Duke's half court defense cooled off the Spartans hot start to begin the Final Four. Okafor was a beast in the Blue Devils' win over Michigan State, scoring 18 points. Winslow led Duke with 19 points and has been the Blue Devils' best player in tournament with his offense and defense.
Duke is deeper, too. The Blue Devils play eight guys in their rotation. Okafor and Winslow are the stars. But senior Quinn Cook and Jones lead a talented back court. (Cook scored 17 against Michigan State). Marshall Plumlee, Amile Jefferson, Matt Jones and Grayson Allen are a few other key role players for Duke.
The Blue Devils are in their first title game since 2010 when they won a title in Indianapolis against Butler. So, it may be a little deja vu. The key for Duke winning another title will be keeping Okafor out of foul trouble with Frank Kaminsky being a force inside and outside for the Badgers.
For Wisconsin, destiny may be on their side. The Badgers got sweet revenge on Kentucky after last season's loss. Kaminsky and Sam Dekker came back and led Wisconsin to their first title game in 74 years.
It was Dekker again, who led the Badgers to the championship game. Dekker stepped back and hit a monster three from the top of the key to help Wisconsin eliminate the Wildcats. The Badgers took a page from Notre Dame and basically replicated what the Fighting Irish did against Kentucky. Wisconsin forced the Wildcats to guard them outside and then Badgers beat Kentucky at their own game, too. Wisconsin grabbed 12 offensive rebounds against Kentucky.
Wisconsin averages 71.9 points per game and allows 57.9 points per game to opponents. Kaminsky is tough to guard, as he can go inside and outside. Dekker has drastically improved his game, making him difficult for opponents. He can hit the outside shot and go inside.
Nigel Hayes, Bronson Koenig and Josh Gasser are quality role players for the Badgers, too. Hayes stayed out of foul trouble against Kentucky and scored 12 points. Koenig scored 12 points as well against the Wildcats.
The key for the Badgers is containing Okafor and breaking Duke's defense, which has been solid the last two games to help the Blue Devils reach the title game.
Prediction: Tonight's title game is a pick'em, in my opinion. It's two great offensive teams that play solid defense. The pace should be fast and that usually is good for Duke. But this is a different Wisconsin team, which has thrived in half court in recent years. Deja vu may be on Duke's side, but I think Wisconsin gets revenge a second time in three nights in Indianapolis, winning Ryan's first title. Wisconsin 70, Duke 67.
What do you think? Who wins Duke or Wisconsin?