Monday, April 6, 2015

The Final No One Saw Coming

The Madness has almost come to an end as the NCAA Tournament Championship has reached its final game. Of the plethora of questions that arose starting on selection Sunday, including the tournament field of 68 itself, only one remains, and that is who will be the National Champion. The others, like can Kentucky finish the season unbeaten and are they the best ever? No and No. Because of the parity in this year’s field will there be a sleeper that makes the Final Four? Yes, Michigan State. Will Villanova break their curse and get out of the round of 32? Nope. Suddenly one of the most coveted coaches may be on the hot-seat next season. Is this the best field of two-seeds ever? Well despite the big names, neither Arizona, Kansas, Virginia, or Gonzaga could get out of the elite 8, and the list goes on. Now we just have to see if Wisconsin can get it’s first title in over 75 years? Can Coach K take one more step to becoming the greatest college coach of all time? Here is what will need to happen for either of those questions to be answered with a yes. Wisconsin needs to get over themselves. In other words, imagine if the USA had lost to Finland in the Gold Medal 1980 Olympics, there never would have been a “miracle on ice”, the incredible win over the Russians would have been nothing more than a footnote. Not that this is on the national scale like that was but if you reside in the state of Wisconsin it’s pretty close. However they need to recognize that there’s still more work to do and one very tough game left that may in many ways be more difficult, if that’s possible. Change the history of the school or become another footnote. Duke needs to Finish. They got off to a slow start after Coach K got back from coaching the World Championships. They weren’t very good defensively, and didn’t fully utilize their talent, and had a 3-3 stretch in January that dropped them out of the top 15 and had even fans wondering how far they could go. Then they won 17 out of 18, managed to avoid Notre Dame the school that hung two of their four losses on them, and now find themselves in the NCG, again. People were beginning to question the caliber of the Devils after losses to Mercer (1st round), Louisville, Lehigh, and Arizona (by 16) over the last four years. Well this is their chance to put it on display as for the first time since they lost to Arkansas in 1994, they are underdogs going into the Final. Our pick? We’re done pickin’. This could be one of the best finals in the history of the tournament, a great contrast in styles, with a good potential for free basketball at the end. Only time will tell what kind of pros the Okafors and Tanks of this game become but we’re looking to see a great conclusion to a month of madness that makes it the greatest event in sports bar none.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Final Four - Big Favorites are Far From Sure Things

This year’s Final Four is a microcosm of the entire the entire NCAA Tournament, should be highly competitive, one clear favorite, and look for an upset en route to the Final. The NCAA Committee has to feel good with what the final outcome of what was a very controversial field has been. Four storied programs, four great coaches (3 sure fire Hall members), the Wooden Award winner, and only time will tell how many NBA players spring up from this crop. Oh, and did we mention 2 great game matups? Only the Pac-Man v Mayweather fight is a more anticipated event so let’s look at the matchups. The early game is a rematch of a December matchup between Duke and Michigan State which Duke won quite handily but as you already know things are quite different now as Duke plays much better defensively and the Spartans don’t even resemble the same team. That is what makes this one so tough to call. No doubt the Duke starting five can match up with anyone in the country but get to their bench and although good, there is a noticeable drop off. How can there not be with 2 potential first-rounders in the starting lineup and probably the #1 overall pick? Additionally, this game screams matchup problems for State as they don’t have a deep front line and if they get into foul trouble against Okafor there simply isn’t the deep bench there to help them out. Not to mention Justise Winslow’s sudden ability to hit the 3-point shot makes if very difficult to double down low. Michigan State’s best shot is to get into a transition game with BlueDevils and try to steal one down the stretch. This will be tough because despite the marquis names pacing the sidelines, Coach K actually owns Tom Izzo 9-1. Travis Trice will need to come up huge for the Spartans but that six-point line is there for a reason and not because Izzo fouls at the end of games. We like the Devils to advance to the championship game on Monday night. The second game pits the second of two rematches for the Wisconsin Badgers as they relived the 2014 tournament with a victory over Arizona in the Regional Final again this year but hope to change the final two chapters of the 2015 sequel by defeating Kentucky and advancing to the Finals on Monday. Last year, it was Wisconsin that was the favorite and Kentucky that was the upstart, 8-seeded, freshman laden school that wasn’t supposed to be there, advancing to Final Four with victories of only 7,2,5, and 3 points respectively, but advanced as a last second (good look) jumper bounced off the rim. However this sequel could also be titled “The Empire Strikes Back” as that Kentucky team that lost the Finals last year has brought back that freshman backcourt, only now they are sophomores and more seasoned, even after all of the last second heroics of last year, better and perhaps the best in all of college basketball. And that 8 seed? Now they’re all growns’ up, undefeated at 38-0 and perhaps the best in history. An the Empire wants a title. In other words, Luke may go down with the ship in this version, but what the Badgers need to do force the Wildcats to shoot outside, because if they have a weakness this is it. Conversely, it was 67% shooting from beyond the arch that propelled the Badgers past the favorite Arizona in the Regional Final and they will need a repeat performance if they are to keep playing on Monday. Although most pundits, bracket tacticians, and fans in general have the Kentucky cutting down the nets, if there is someone left who has a good shot at beating them it’s Wisconsin. A team with a similar makeup to Notre Dame, whom lead UK by 5 with 5:18 to play, has Senior leadership and runs that slow “Princeton style” backdoor pick, style of offense that stifled the Cats until the final minute of the game when Kentucky took the lead back. However as good as the Player of the Year is, Frank Kaminsky will have two or three big athletic kids thrown at him and will need to stay out of foul trouble but still create a presence defensively. In the end we think Kentucky will simply have too many weapons to throw at Wisconsin, and from all angles, and if they don’t shoot lights out again it could be a long day, as they don’t force many turnovers and the Cats will kill you in the paint if they get their normal amount of game possessions. We like Darth Vader to advance against Duke in the finals on Monday. Get the Highlights, Stats, Scores, Betting Lines, and more on the main site.