The 2015 NCAA Tournament has reached it's final stage as Kentucky, Wisconsin, Duke, and Michigan State have all reached the Final Four. Which two teams will be playing for the national championship on Monday? Here's the breakdown of each game:
TV: TBS, 6:09 p.m. ET
Duke won the South Regional with a 14-point victory over Gonzaga, while Michigan State come out of the East Regional with a narrow overtime victory over Louisville.
Projected Starting Lineups
(1) Duke Blue Devils (33-4, 15-3 in ACC)
G Tyus Jones (Fr.) – 11.5 ppg, 5.7 rpg
G Quinn Cook (Sr.) – 15.9 ppg, 3.3 rpg
F Justise Winslow (Fr.) – 12.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg
F Amile Jefferson (Jr.) – 7.5 ppg, 6.4 rpg
C Jahlil Okafor (Fr.) – 18.4 ppg, 9.4 rpg
(7) Michigan State Spartans (27-11, 12-6 in Big Ten)
G Travis Trice (Sr.) – 15.1 ppg, 5.2 apg
G Denzel Valentine (Jr.) – 14.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg
G Lourawls Nairn Jr. (Fr.) – 2.2 ppg, 2.5 apg
F Branden Dawson (Sr.) – 11.8 ppg, 9.2 rpg
F Gavin Schilling (So.) – 5.4 ppg, 4.2 rpg
What to watch for:
Jahlil Okafor vs. Michigan State's big men
Okafor has a fully developed post game, quick feet, soft hands, and runs the floor well. He has also developed into a solid defender at Duke, and he seems destined to be the next great NBA big man. The Blue Devils run their offense through him, and no one has been able to stop him all year.
Dawson is Michigan State's best bet if they want to guard Okafor one-on-one, but expect the Spartans to double team him. If Michigan State effective with that, they'll have a great chance to win.
Duke’s perimeter defense vs. Michigan State's guards
Duke’s four losses this season have come against teams with good guards that can break down a defense off the dribble and shoot from long range. Coach K’s patented man-to-man pressure defense has been exploited by efficient offenses, and that’s lead to Duke’s early round losses in two of the past three years (Lehigh in 2012, Mercer in 2014).
A trademark of any Tom Izzo team is unselfishness and ball movement, and Michigan State ranks among the best teams in the country in assists (17.2 per game). The Spartans have weapons that can hurt you all over the court, and because they’re so willing to share the ball, it makes Michigan State’s offense unpredictable.
Michigan State should be able to create open driving lanes with their ball movement, and if they can consistently make plays in the paint, they'll be able to control the game.
Prediction: Duke wins 79-72
The Spartans have relied on stout defense and team play to get this far, but Duke has the talent to hurt a team from any position on the floor. That talent discrepancy will show itself in the second half when the Blue Devils pull away.
TV: TBS, 8:49 p.m. ET
Kentucky is still pursuing an undefeated season after coming back to beat Notre Dame to win the Midwest Regional, while Wisconsin beat Arizona in the Elite 8 for the second straight year to win the West Regional. The Wildcats and Badgers met in the Final Four last year, which Kentucky won by just one point.
Projected Starting Lineups
(1) Kentucky Wildcats (38-0, 18-0 in SEC)
G Andrew Harrison (So.) – 11.5 ppg, 5.7 rpg
G Aaron Harrison (So.) – 8.4 ppg, 4.1 rpg
F Trey Lyles (Fr.) – 7.9 ppg, 5.1 rpg
F Karl-Anthony Towns (Fr.) – 9.3 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 2.4 bpg
C Willie Cauley-Stein (Jr.) – 9.1 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 1.5 bpg
(1) Wisconsin Badgers (35-3, 16-2 in Big Ten)
G Bronson Koenig (So.) – 8.3 ppg, 2.2 apg
G John Gasser (Sr.) – 7.0 ppg, 3.5 rpg
F Sam Dekker (Jr.) – 13.2 ppg, 5.6 rpg
F Nigel Hayes (So.) – 12.1 ppg, 6.5 rpg
F Frank Kaminsky (Sr.) – 18.2 ppg, 8.1 rpg
What to watch for:
Wisconsin’s Outside Shooting
Even though Kentucky hasn't lost yet, their closest victories were against Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Florida, Georgia, and Notre Dame, all of whom were also perimeter-oriented teams. Wisconsin's best chance is to get hot from the outside and put pressure on Kentucky to score with them. The Badgers made 12 of 18 three-pointers against Arizona in the Elite 8, and they'll need a similar performance to beat Kentucky.
Frank Kaminsky vs. Kentucky’s big men
Kaminsky loves to stretch the defense by shooting effectively from the outside (40 percent from three-point range), but he also has top notch footwork that makes him a threat in the post as well. Kaminsky puts pressure on the defense from every angle, and he’s someone the opposition has to always account for.
However, Kentucky is bigger than any other team in the country, and they have the top defense in college basketball. If Willie Cauley-Stein and Karl-Anthony Towns can limit Kaminsky's production, Kentucky will win easily.
Prediction: Kentucky wins 72-64
Wisconsin has as good of a chance to beat Kentucky as anyone, and I expect this one to be hotly contested throughout. However, the Wildcats have much more depth than the Badgers, and the boost Kentucky will get from their bench will propel them to the victory.
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