The 2015 Men’s NCAA Tournament comes down to two no. 1 seeds, the Duke Blue Devils (34-4) and the Wisconsin Badgers (36-3) matching up for the National Championship. Society founders Martin Soaries and Cyril Armel offer a preview and predictions for tonight’s match up.
Road to get here:
For Duke – vs. (16) Robert Morris, (8) San Diego State, (5) Utah, (2) Gonzana, (7) Michigan State
For Wisconsin – vs. (16) Coastal Carolina, (8) Oregon, (5) North Carolina, (2) Arizona, (1) Kentucky
Some things we know:
- Duke is making their 11th appearance in the national title game while Wisconsin hasn’t been here since 1941.
- These two teams met before — Duke handed Wisconsin their first loss of this season 80-70 on Dec. 3.
- In the NCAA Tournament, Duke is only giving up 55 points and Wisconsin is averaging nearly 80 points per game.
What is the most important individual match up in this game?
Cyril: The most important individual match-up in the National Championship will be between Sam Dekker and Justise Winslow. Both of these small forwards have arguably been the sparks to their respective team’s run to this title game. Although it looks fairly even, I give my edge to Winslow and Duke in this matchup. Winslow has been a true utility player of the Blue Devils. His ability to change the game on both ends of the floor and in different ways has worked tenfold for Duke.
Martin: Kaminsky vs. Okafor. People really wanted to see Okafor/Towns just for the NBA Draft conversation, which would have been great, but Kaminsky is the National Player of the Year and Okafor is the first Duke freshman to win ACC Player of the Year. Accolades aside, their match-up is huge for this game because they probably have to guard each other, and their skill sets present challenges for each other. Kaminsky has both the shooting range and the post ability, but Okafor has the big body and craftiness that requires more than one defender. How the two big men go at each other will set the tone for this game.
What player has surprised you the most so far between these two teams?
Cyril: Bronson Koenig has surprised me the most thus far. He’s been a calming hand at the point guard position for the Badgers with Traevon Jackson working his way back into the rotation from his mid-season injury. Koenig not only has played superb defense on opposing guards all tournament, he’s provided much-needed good decision making as well as hitting timely shots to help the Badgers get to this position.
Martin: Matt Jones has surprised me for Duke. He really stepped up in response to Rasheed Sulaimon’s departure, and more importantly, has helped Mike Krzyzewski employ a smaller line up with Justice Winslow at the four. I understood Jones to just be a shooter, but his ability to knock down shots is secondary to the energy he brings to the Blue Devils as an extra aggressor on the floor.
Who has a chance to have a major impact for Duke and Wisconsin?
Cyril: For Wisconsin, Nigel Hayes. The sophomore 4-man will go above and beyond to give Wisconsin the edge. Key offensive rebounds, defense on Okafor if needed, and hitting open threes. This is the perfect opportunity for Hayes to solidify his draft stock.
For Duke, none other than Quinn Cook. The senior guard has had a year for the ages. With Okafor and Tyus Jones taking a lot of the credit for Duke’s run, Cook has simply gone about his business and done what is expected from a Senior floor leader. Look for him to get going early and try to end his career with the perfect climax.
Martin: Josh Gasser for Wisconsin. He’s the backbone of this team. His likely match up with Quinn Cook is an assignment guys like Gasser live for. Senior versus senior. Gasser knows how to make life difficult for you as a tough defensive pest. Watch for him to try and take Quinn Cook or even Tyus Jones out of the game.
Grayson Allen for Duke. Like Matt Jones, I just think Grayson Allen has shown the kind of aggression you need in games like these. If Allen can find a rhythm to contribute anything it could help give Duke the offensive cushion it needs to hold off the Badgers.
Who wins the National Championship?
Cyril: Wisconsin. If it weren’t for another Aaron Harrison defining moment in the Final Four game last year, many Badgers fans would like to think their team would be playing for a second straight championship this year. Duke has been stellar all year, beating Wisconsin in Madison in their previous matchup, but like their Final Four game on Saturday, Wisconsin is on a mission to right their wrongs — nothing being sweeter than avenging a loss to Duke when it matters most. Frank Kaminsky comes up big in this one and wraps up his career with an NCAA Most Outstanding Player award.
Martin: I believe Wisconsin has passed their biggest test already. That’s not to say they’re vulnerable. After beating Kentucky I believe their confidence is more assuring than ever. My gut tells me that Wisconsin wins this game on know-how, experience, rebounding, and execution. I think they have a chance and probably plan to neutralize one of Duke’s Big Freshman 3. My guess would be Tyus Jones. Unlike Wisconsin’s Final Four opponent, Duke is a scoring team, so if Wisconsin makes the game about defense I think my prediction will hold.