Sideline Report: And then there were four

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After an insane season of college basketball, four teams remain in the quest for the national title. This Saturday, the Final Four will take place in Indianapolis at Lucas Oil Stadium. The match-ups are No. 1 seed Kentucky vs. No. 1 seed Wisconsin and No. 7 seed Michigan State vs. No. 1 seed Duke. These are quite the match-ups with a combine 25 Final Four appearances between the four head coaches, as well as six national titles. This is truly a clash of the titans taking place in Indy.

Kentucky enters the Final Four as a clear favorite as they come in at 38-0, winning the most games in college basketball history. They are chasing history, looking to become the first team since the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers to go the entire season undefeated. They are stacked with future NBA draft picks and 10 players who could pretty much start for any team in the nation. Also, Kentucky has mostly steamrolled their opponents, with a few challenges here and there. But in their Elite Eight match-up against No. 3 seed Notre Dame, Kentucky was outplayed. Notre Dame, led by senior guards Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton, hit the shots they needed to make and found ways to score and defend, even with a severe lack of size. They played Kentucky better than anyone else had this season and, if that last shot had gone differently, Notre Dame would be heading to Indianapolis. But Kentucky yet again survived and advanced, and head coach John Calipari has his team ready to compete for another national title.

But, Kentucky has a formidable foe standing in their way from the championship game: Wisconsin. Head coach Bo Ryan has a team this year that has size, depth and a whole lot of talent. Senior Frank Kaminsky, a player of the year finalist, leads this team in rebounds, assists and points while being a fantastic leader on the court. Junior Sam Dekker, who went off in the Elite Eight going 5-6 from three-point range, is another great weapon for Ryan and the Badgers. This team can challenge Kentucky with their scoring ability and length that can hang with the length of Kentucky. Wisconsin has had a fantastic season by navigating through the Big Ten and earning their No. 1 seed. They have proven to naysayers that the Big Ten was not weak this year and are looking to make the upset and get Ryan his first national title. If they make three-pointers, rebound and play solid defense, we could see Kentucky go home, 38-1. Wisconsin’s defense is questionable, but serviceable and able to keep them in games.

My prediction: Kentucky 69, Wisconsin 71

In the other match-up, head coach Tom Izzo has led yet another team to the Final Four. This is his seventh trip and might be his most impressive run. This Michigan State team is not as overall talented as in year’s past, but junior guard Denzel Valentine‘s and senior guard Travis Trice‘s talent should not be underestimated. This team plays sound defense and can flat-out score. Michigan State has had stretches of great play and stretches of pure awful. Thus, the team earned a No. 7 seed and has had to take a very challenging road to the Final Four, defeating a No. 2 seed, a No. 3 seed and a No. 4 seed. Michigan State comes in as the clear underdog, but will definitely not go down without a fight. Izzo is a great coach, especially in the NCAA Tournament and this team is used to adversity. Duke has their hands full on Saturday with this very athletic Michigan State team.

But Duke has a great a team, and coach, of their own. Head coach Mike Krzyzewski is entering his 12th Final Four, tying him with legendary UCLA coach John Wooden. This Duke team has had a great season, led by player of the year candidate Jahlil Okafor and freshmen Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow. Duke has played well in the tournament thus far, with excellent defense and powerful post play from Okafor. Krzyzewski should be proud of this team and has done a magnificent coaching job. Usually Duke teams are led by juniors and seniors who have worked their way up through the program. However, this year has been a healthy change, yet still with senior leaders such as guard Quinn Cook. With all of this said, Duke is the clear favorite to advance to the title game.

My prediction: Michigan State 65, Duke 72

Overall, this will be another great weekend in basketball, culminating in a national championship on Monday night. Saturday can’t get here soon enough.

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