Final Four Recap and Championship Preview

Staff Writer

7 Michigan State (27-12) 61
1 Duke (34-4) 81

Michigan State came out hot as they hit 5 of their first 7 shots while building a 14-6 lead in the first 4 minutes. After a time out, Duke came out with laser focus on defense. Michigan State could not find open quality shots and turned the ball over at an alarming rate. After the hot start, Michigan State finished the first half shooting 29.7% (8-27). The strong defensive play ignited Duke’s offense as they closed the half on a 30-11 run.
The second half was much of the same. Duke employed their stingy defense and efficient offense to extend the lead. After all was said and done, Duke won this game by a comfortable 20 point margin. Freshmen Justice Winslow and Jahlil Okafor scored 19 and 18 points respectively. Senior Quinn Cook added 17 points. Duke now moves onto the Championship game. If they win Monday night it would be their 5th National Championship in school history.

1 Wisconsin (36-3) 71
1 Kentucky (38-1) 64

This game was a rematch of last year’s Final Four Matchup. Last year, Wisconsin was the favorites against an 8th seeded Kentucky Wildcats team. This year, Kentucky breezed through the regular season and won some tough tournament games en route to potentially the first undefeated season since Indiana University in 1975-76. Last year, Kentucky’s Aaron Harrison hit a 3 pointer at the buzzer to send the Badgers home. After one half of back and forth play, we were knotted at 36 thanks to Wisconsin connecting on a 3 at the buzzer.
The second half was tightly contested as both teams held small leads throughout. With less than 10 minutes to go in the game, Wisconsin was clinging to 4 point lead at 56-52. This began a 5 minute scoring drought for the Badgers and allowed Kentucky to take a 60-56 lead with 4:45 left in the game. Wisconsin gambled by resting star Frank Kaminski for a couple minutes during the drought. It appeared that Kentucky had righted the ship and Wisconsin’s gamble would be their downfall. Despite poor officiating that evened out on both sides, Wisconsin was able to close the game on a 15-4 run to upset the Wildcats. Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky, the Naismith Player of the Year, finished the game with 20 points and 11 rebounds. The clutch Sam Dekker finished with 16 points on an efficient 6-9 shooting. They will meet Duke Monday night for the National Championship.

National Championship Game Preview
Duke (34-4)
Wisconsin (36-3)

Duke and Wisconsin will be meeting for the second time this year. They met in Wisconsin on December 3rd and Duke dispatched Wisconsin by a score of 80-70. This was the first loss of the season for the Badgers. These teams match up quite well and it should be an exciting rematch. Each team’s best player resides in the post. Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky is a legit 7 footer with the ability to put the ball on the floor and make shots from the perimeter. Duke’s Jahlil Okafor is an athletic 6’11” big man that has a feathery touch around the rim and can make a mid-range jumper. Big difference between these guys is that fact that Kaminsky is a Senior, while Okafor is a Freshman. Each team’s second best player is a tall athletic wing. Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker has been unbelievably clutch throughout this tournament, while Duke’s Justice Winslow has been a defensive stalwart and nightmare off the dribble. Winslow can do a little bit of everything. So who wins Monday night? After taking a look at their previous meeting, one thing is absolutely clear. Duke will not shoot 65+% from the floor again. We like Wisconsin in a close one. However, take that with a grain of salt as we have been wrong about almost everything during this tournament!

Pick: Wisconsin 71-67