March Madness – (1) Wisconsin vs. (1) Duke (Nat’l Championship)

(1) Wisconsin Badgers (-1, 140.5 o/u) vs. (1) Duke Blue Devils 

It’s not the final that everyone was expecting, but tomorrow’s national championship game will be one for the ages as Bo Ryan tries to lead the Wisconsin Badgers (36-3, 16-2 Big Ten) to their first title since 1941 against four-time champ Mike Krzyzewski and his Duke Blue Devils (34-4, 15-3 ACC) at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis (9:18 p.m. Eastern).

Both teams played arguably their best games of the tournament in the Final Four.

The Badgers ended No. 1 Kentucky’s storybook run to an undefeated national championship by downing the Wildcats 71-64, covering as five-point dogs. Wisconsin forwards Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker continued their strong play with 20 and 16 points, respectively, and both came up huge in the final minutes. With a 1:30 left on the clock and the game tied at 60, Dekker nailed a clutch step-back three. He then drew an offensive foul on Trey Lyles on the next possession.

After Kentucky guard Andrew Harrison completed a three-point play to bring the Wildcats within one (64-63), Kaminsky hit 4/4 free throws late in the game and pulled down a big defensive to end Kentucky’s quest for perfection.

Duke, meanwhile, had a considerably easier time in its Final Four game, but looked no less impressive. The Blue Devils routed No. 7 Michigan State, 81-61, crushing the five-point spread.

After falling behind by eight (14-6) less than four minutes into the game, Duke’s defense tightened up, surrendering just 11 points in the rest of the first half. The Blue Devils’ two talented freshman forwards – Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow – started to heat up offensively and Krzyzewski’s squad took a 36-25 lead into the break.

Duke scored the first six points in the second to open up a 17-point lead and never looked back, cruising to a convincing 20-point win. Winslow led the team with 19 points and nine boards while Okafor had 18 and six.

While Wisconsin is currently a one-point favorite for tomorrow’s game, Duke will likely come in a confident squad. The Badgers and Blue Devils already squared off in non-conference play earlier this season; the Blue Devils traveled to chilly Madison in early December but shot a scorching 65-percent from the floor en route to an 80-70 win.

The Badger frontcourt did a reasonably good job of containing Okafor and Winslow, but had no answer for freshman point guard Tyus Jones, who shredded Wisconsin for 22 points and four assists.

Dekker had one of his quietest games of the season, scoring just five points on 2/5 shooting.

Heading into tomorrow’s game, the over/under is at 140.5. Duke games have stayed under in eight of the last ten, while Wisconsin has posted three straight overs. Look for the bright lights of the title game to lead to a little less offense, making the under the better play.

(Photo credit: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode]. Photo has been cropped.)

 

AlexanderP

Alexander is the MTS editor-in-chief. Frank, Alex, and Geoff brought him in when they realized that their betting expertise far surpassed their grammatical abilities. He loves overanalyzing college basketball trends. Talking to him during the first weekend of March Madness is like talking to a wall. A very focused wall, but a wall nonetheless.