The Final Four is underway. We have a match-up between the #7 Michigan State Spartans and the #1 Duke Blue Devils, and following that game we see the highly favorited #1 Kentucky Wildcats battling against the #1 Wisconsin Badgers. This tournament has lived up to the hype like it always does and we have two spectacular games ahead of us. Today, I’m going to give you my predictions on how the Final Four will play out and which team will take it all.
Michigan St. vs. Duke
We have a repeat of the Nov. 18 match-up in where Duke beat the Spartans 81-71. Coach K got production from all of his main guys that game with Quinn Cook putting up 19 points; Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones adding 17 and Justise Winslow also chipped in 15 points. Everything was working for Duke, making Michigan State play from behind the entire game and being able to maintain their lead. Tom Izzo and his team hasn’t beaten this team in the previous four match-ups and I know that he’s looking for revenge tonight. The way he has his team playing in the tournament is beyond phenomenal. You always hear commentators say around March Madness time that it’s all about who “catches fire at the right time”, and Michigan State caught that flame.
With the reputation of Izzo and their basketball program, you know you can never count them out. Travis Trice has played well for them as of late and has really led this team offensively. Their defense is no joke as well, holding their opponents shooting to about 34% a game in this tournament. I’m picking Michigan State to come out on top in this game. I believe it will be close and it will come down to a buzzer-beater but overall I think Izzo will have his boys prepared for every punch that Duke will throw and ultimately come out on top.
Kentucky vs. Wisconsin
This is the match-up that everyone has been waiting for — a repeat of the 2014 Final Four Semifinals that ended in an Andrew Harrison three-pointer for the win. The Kentucky Wildcats are looking to add to their perfect season while the Badgers are looking to knock off Goliath and earn that spot to play for the National Championship. This game will be the ultimate battle in the paint, with Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker looking to continue their great offensive play against the athletic and long big men that hold down the paint for Kentucky. Athleticism and length are two things that are hard to prepare for so it will be interesting to see how they will manage scoring in the paint. On the other hand, with Kaminsky having the ability to stretch the floor and drive the basket, Wisconsin may be able to open up the paint which could cause some trouble for the Wildcats.
I said if their was one team I would pick to beat Kentucky it would be Wisconsin, however it’s not happening today. I think ultimately Kentucky is just too good. I don’t think anyone is more focused than Coach Kalipari and his boys. As much as they like to downplay the undefeated season, I know it’s on their brain and they are going to fight as hard as they can to make that happen.
Championship Game: Michigan State vs. Kentucky
With me picking Michigan State and Kentucky to win in the Final Four, that would give us this match-up in the championship between the Spartans and the Wildcats. As much as I love nail-biters and close games in the tournament, this would be the furthest thing from it. I believe that Kentucky would win very convincingly just because they pose such a match-up problem for MSU. Kentucky has an abundance of near 7-footers whereas Michigan State’s biggest player is 6’9. That’s not cutting it going against a team that likes to score and pack that paint. I believe it would be a field day for Kentucky’s post players and it wouldn’t be that “down to the buzzer” game we live for in the Finals. However, we will see the 8th team ever to complete a perfect season and their names will be mentioned in the realm of past great teams.