University of Kentucky
Big Ju from Remember the Titans said, “We have won every single game we have played ‘til now. So this team is perfect. We stepped out on that field that way tonight. And if it’s all the same to you, coach Boone, that’s how we want to leave it.” Kentucky head coach John Calipari played this clip to his team before his University of Kentucky Wildcats played the University of Notre Dame on Saturday March 28.
Kentucky left the floor that night still undefeated and will continue to do so until the team wins the whole thing. Kentucky has college basketball’s best starting lineup, best defense, best bench and arguably the best player in the country in freshman forward Karl-Anthony Towns.
The team will face the University of Wisconsin in the Final Four; a team led by star senior forward Frank Kaminsky. Kentucky will keep the Badgers humble with stifling defense and strong transition play. That then leaves Michigan State University or Duke University for the championship. Duke seems to be the team poised to face Kentucky in the final, and it could be a difficult game considering the talent of freshman center Jahlil Okafor. But Kentucky’s strong bench will help to keep energy on the floor that will eventually exhaust Duke.
The Wildcats are currently 38-0 and in the Final Four. Seven of the last 12 teams that have gone undefeated and have made it to the Final Four have won the championship, and it Kentucky’s dominance will continue all the way until the end.
Michigan State University
Michigan State University head coach Tom Izzo and March Madness go together like peanut butter and jelly. The Spartans are entering yet another Final Four—Izzo’s seventh. He continues to win with a cast of role players and no top National Basketball Association prospects. He does this by making his athletes play unselfishly; they move the ball around to find the best shot. They are patient and motivated, set to prove that they deserved better than a seven seed.
Izzo gets his players to believe in a system that has worked so well over 19 seasons. That system is why Michigan State will win this year’s NCAA Tournament.
To get to the Final Four, Michigan State had to go through another Hall of Fame coach—Rick Pitino of the University of Louisville. When it comes to the Final Four, coaching reigns supreme. Most of these players have never played in an atmosphere anything like the Final Four. Izzo is the right guy to calm his team down and to make them truly want it.
The players won’t be playing for an NBA contract—something that Kentucky has done for years. They’ll be playing for a legendary coach that has gotten them the nation’s respect. A seven seed winning it all is not as crazy as it sounds. Never count out Tom Izzo in the NCAA Tournament.
University of Wisconsin
After reaching the Final Four for the second straight year, the top-seeded University of Wisconsin Badgers look to avenge last year’s Final Four loss and win their first NCAA title since 1941. The Badgers are led by Naismith Player of the Year candidate senior forward Frank Kaminsky, junior forward Sam Dekker and sophomore guard/forward Nigel Hayes. Wisconsin has a 35-3 record this season and has won every game in the NCAA Tournament by seven or more points.
In order for Wisconsin to hoist the trophy, a few things must occur. First, the Badgers need major contributions from their guards. The team’s guards to step up and hit open threes or penetrate and kick to draw the defense away from Kaminsky and Dekker. The second key is to limit transition buckets from the opposition. Teams like the University of Kentucky and Duke University like to get out and run and score easy layups on fast breaks. For Wisconsin to stand a chance, the Badgers have to slow runners down and focus on half-court defense. The last factor is that they need to rebound. They are significantly undersized compared to Kentucky, so they will need to box out to secure rebounds.
If Wisconsin can do these things and play an all-around perfect game, the Badgers should be able to call themselves the 2015 NCAA Champions come the tournament’s conclusion.
The Duke University Blue Devils are poised to capture their second title in six years. Head coach Mike Krzyzewski and company are matched up against a Michigan State University team that, to put it frankly, doesn’t match up to the Blue Devils’ level of talent. Duke scores 80.6 points per game compared to 71.9 for the Spartans. In their meeting earlier this season, Duke won by almost exactly that score: 81-71.
The Blue Devils would face either the University of Wisconsin or the University of Kentucky in the championship. Duke faced off against Wisconsin back in December, winning 80-70. The Badgers did not face any tougher competition after that. I can’t see the result being different this time around.
Against Kentucky, Duke would have the advantage in the coaching department. Krzyzewski will do everything in his power to confuse the young players on the Wildcats’ roster. Kentucky head coach John Calipari is without a doubt a great coach, but his team is just too young to beat the Blue Devils.
Statistically, it’s hard to top Duke. The Blue Devils have four players averaging double-digit points per game, with freshman center Jahlil Okafor leading the way with 17.5. From the field, the Blue Devils shoot the lights out. They make 50.2 percent of their shots—good enough for third in the country. No matter how you slice it, Duke will be cutting down the nets on championship night.