In November before any meaningful games had been played, I predicted the NCAA Final Four would be Kentucky, Duke, Arizona, and Gonzaga. Halfway through the season, I dropped Arizona from my predictions and gave the nod to Wisconsin. Lo and behold, all of those teams made the elite 8, and since Gonzaga and Duke were in the same region, only 3 of my mid-season predictions came true. You don’t have to ask, I’m crushing it in my NCAA pools. Here’s how I think the 2015 Final Four will shape up:
Duke vs Michigan State
I’ve watched the majority of Duke’s televised games this season, and had the pleasure of watching Michigan State cut down the nets this weekend live from the Carrier Dome in Syracuse. After knocking off Virginia in the 2nd round, I had a feeling the Spartans would make it to Indianapolis.
When Mangok Mathiang’s second foul shot near the end of regulation clanked off the rim (not the first one that clanked off the rim and dropped in), I emailed a buddy of mine telling him overtime favored MSU, and it did. They were the better team on Sunday, much like Duke was the better team in their route of Gonzaga.
Gonzaga had their most talented team ever in my opinion. Had they been in Michigan State’s bracket, they’d be in the Final Four. I 100% believe that. Duke was just too good. Or should I say, Justise Winslow was just too good. The future lottery pick took over in the 2nd half and dominated the game (on a bum ankle, no less). This Duke team was destined for the Final Four, there was no stopping them.
I expect the same on Saturday. There is no stopping this Duke team from reaching the NCAA Championship. Tom Izzo has coached his team incredibly, outperforming everyone’s expectations after a lackluster first half of the season. They’ll play the Blue Devils tough for the first 30 or so minutes of the game, but Okafor will be too much inside and the guard play of Duke is simply superior to Michigan State. Blue Devils should win this one with some breathing room.
Prediction: Duke 72, Michigan State 58.
Kentucky vs Wisconsin
Remember this goofy kid that I mocked in my season preview?
He’s a senior this year, and he’s the best player in the country.
Frank Kaminsky has been unstoppable in this NCAA tournament. His mixture of size and soft touch is unmatched. He’s a nightmare for opposing teams to guard. Put a big man on him? He’ll make it rain from outside. Throw a speedy guard at him? He’ll dominate in the post. He may not be a future stud in the NBA (he’s basically the evolved, better form of former Duke star Ryan Kelly), but he’s a monster in College Basketball and Kentucky is going to have their hands full.
Fortunately for John Calipari, his team is loaded with future NBA studs. Karl Anthony Towns could be the #1 overall pick in the NBA Draft, as his stock has skyrocketed over the past few months. He dominated Notre Dame inside to lead the Wildcats to the Final Four. Willie Cauley-Stein seems to put together a highlight reel every single game. The Kentucky roster has 8 guys that will likely be playing in the NBA very soon, and they’ll be chasing history as they put their undefeated season on the line in Indianapolis.
Unfortunately, the Wildcats aren’t battle tested like Wisconsin. The SEC is weak. Their out of conference schedule was cake. Notre Dame was the best team they’ve played all year, and they only beat them by 2 after trailing the majority of the game in the Elite 8. Wisconsin’s resume speaks volumes. They’ve won some huge games, none bigger than their incredible performance against Arizona to get to the Final Four. They’re the hottest team in the country right now, and I think they put an end to the Wildcats’ perfect season in an instant-classic.
Prediction: Wisconsin 71, Kentucky 69.
Duke vs Wisconsin will be a final for the ages. The Blue Devils will rely on Justise Winslow to shut Sam Dekker down, leaving Frank Kaminsky to go off for 30 or so points as Jahlil Okafor will have no answer defensively. Okafor will dominate the paint on Duke’s offensive end, though, getting Frank the Tank into foul trouble leaving the likely Wooden Award winner watching from the bench for the final minutes of the 2nd half. Duke fulfills my season long prophesy, and takes the 2015 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship.
Prediction: Duke 74, Wisconsin 68.