And then there were four. College basketball’s annual March Madness saga is winding to its close this weekend with three of the tournament favorites and one familiar foe squaring off with a trip to the April 6 final in the offing. Undefeated Kentucky (38-0) was expected to be in Indianapolis where they will face the West Regional’s No. 1 seed, the Wisconsin Badgers (35-3).
On the other side of the bracket, No. 1 seeded Duke (33-4, South Regional) will face off against the only lower seed left in the field in Michigan State (27-11, No. 7 seed, East Regional). The Spartans are a perennial powerhouse in March/April and despite having a relatively lackluster regular season, MSU is back in the Final Four for the seventh time as Michigan State’s head coach.
Kentucky is bearing the burden of trying to be the first wire-to-wire undefeated college basketball team since the 1975-76 Indiana Hoosiers went 32-0 en route to the championship. The Wildcats are five-point favorites ahead of Saturday’s contest and remain overwhelming 5/6 frontrunners to win the tournament outright as reported by Vegasinsider.
Kentucky has a nine-man system, and while they have at least four projected first-round NBA draft picks, they’ve been doing it all season without a prolific scorer. Sophomore guard Aaron Harrison leads UK’s balanced offense with 11.0 PPG, but it is future NBA lottery picks Karl-Anthony Towns (Freshman, 10.1 PPG, 6.6 RPG) and Willie Cauley-Stein (9.1 PPG, 6.5 RPG) that punish the opposition on both sides of the paint.
Towns (6’11”) and Cauley-Stein (7’0”) terrorize opponents by controlling the boards and intimidating with their shot-blocking abilities. They are supported by the superior guard play of Devin Booker (10.1 PPG), Andrew Harrison (9.2 PPG) and Tyler Eulis. This is Kentucky’s 17th Final Four; they have won the tournament eight times including their 2012 run.
Wisconsin counters with All-American Frank Kaminsky (18.7 PPG, 8 RPG) and fellow potential lottery pick Sam Dekker (13.9 PPG, 5.5 RPG). This is the Badgers fourth-ever Final Four and they are 7/2 favorites to win it all.
Duke enters their Final Four contest against Michigan State as five-point favorites. The Blue Devils are also laying 7/2 odds to win the tournament and have the projected No. 1 overall NBA Draft pick Jahlil Okafor (17.5 PPG, 8.7 RPG) in top form. The Dukies made their 16th Final Four by dispatching Gonzaga 66-52 in the Elite 8. Duke has won the tournament four times including their most recent run in 2010.
Michigan State are laying 7/1 odds to win the tournament in Indianapolis; the Spartans have won it all twice (1979, 2000). While not many experts saw the Spartans making this deep of a run in this year’s tournament, no one is surprised to see Coach Tom Izzo’s men peaking at the right time. The Spartans are paced by three double-digit scorers in upperclassmen Travis Trice (15.3 PPG, 5.1 APG), Denzel Valentine (14.3 PPG, 6.2 RPG) and Branden Dawson (11.9 PPG, 9.1 RPG). Trice, in particular, has been lights-out in clutch situations, knocking down big shots throughout the tournament.
Kentucky 74, Wisconsin 71
Duke 82, Michigan State 78
Kentucky 78, Duke 72
We expect Kentucky to close it out, make history, and etch their names into college basketball history. What do you think will happen? Let us know in the comments!
Written by Zach Kay. Kay is a sports writer who has previously worked at several sports sites, including sportswriters.us.