Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, April 6, 2015 at 9:26 AM
THE NCAA TOURNAMENT CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
IS IT TIME TO "SAY CHEESE" OR IS THE DUKE DYNASTY GONNA ADD YET ANOTHER CROWN TO THE LIST?
Here's to the "real winners" when it comes to this year's NCAA Tournament … that's those wise folks that didn't have Kentucky in their NCAA Championship Game bracket!
C'mon, did you really know anybody out there that that expected two #1 seeds to be playing in tonight's title tilt with neither one of 'em named Kentucky – now that would have been a real long-shot back on Selection Sunday three-plus weeks ago but that's exactly where we stand on this first Monday in April.
Let's face it: #1 Duke versus #1 Wisconsin is a hoops matchup made in heaven – the Badgers are a slight 1-point betting favorite here – it's just that it's probably gonna take everyone a little time today to digest the fact Kentucky's not going for 40-and-oh and you do have to wonder aloud whether or not playing the Wildcats will be a "letdown" of sorts for the Duke Blue Devils and/or whether Wisconsin is gonna suffer its own letdown in this post-Kentucky bash.
Folks, if we were forced to make some sort of prediction here, we'd say this: Both Duke and Wisconsin may well be slow to get out of the proverbial starting gate here and so be aware that there might be one player – on either side – that steals the show early and puts an early stake in the ground when most of the two teams are staggering around to get their bearings.
Now, here's our Jim Sez game-day look at tonight's …
NCAA Tournament Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium; Indianapolis, IN
#1 DUKE (34-4) vs. #1 WISCONSIN (36-3) – 9:18 p.m. ET, CBS
Maybe Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski wouldn't want it said quite this way but this is a "been-there, done-that" deal considering Coach K is making his – believe it or not – ninth appearance in an NCAA Tournament Championship Games.
He and his past Blue Devils own titles from 1991, 1992, 2001 and 2010 – and they lost in the championship round in 1986, 1990, 1994 and 1999.
Meanwhile, Wisconsin boss-man Bo Ryan – who didn't make the cut for the Basketball Hall of Fame (but he will someday soon, you can bet!) – is making his first-ever appearance in an NCAA Championship Game and that in itself in a whole lot to digest.
If Ryan wishes to bang out his first-ever title game win on this level, then his Big 10 team must do a few more things in addition to the obvious which is Player of the Year Frank Kaminsky (20 points and 11 rebounds in the 71-64 triumph over 5-point fav Kentucky in last Saturday's Final Four duel) must not only be a stat-sheet stuffer but he must get in on the so-called "hustle stats" and not commit more than a turnover or two – okay, so Wisky's 10 turnovers against Kentucky may not seem a whole lot but they were a high total for this Badgers' bunch and some "empty possessions" sure had Ryan barking and if they get 10 "empty possessions" this evening it surely will spell disaster.
Next, it's no secret that Wisconsin F Sam Dekker (16 points against Kentucky but the best Badgers' player this tourney) must be the rock-steady sidekick to Kaminsky here but Dekker also must be an energizer type. Okay, so we all saw some shoot-from-the-hip hoops by Dekker last weekend but more than anything his baskets proved to be major sparks and that's very much needed in this prime-time clash.
Lastly when it comes to these Badgers, the fact that Wisconsin shot above-average percentages from the floor (47.9), from the three-point arc (41.2) and from the free-throw line (81.8) in that above-mentioned national semifinal round win against Kentucky was key but the $64,000 question now is can Wisconsin do it again here versus a Duke bunch that absolutely battened down the hatches on "D" after a wobbly start in last weekend's 81-61 win/cover against 5-point underdog Michigan State?
The Dookies – who trailed 14-6 just four-plus minutes into that game – simply silenced the Spartans the rest of the way as Michigan State shot just 22-of-55 overall from the floor and wound up netting seven trifectas in all but four of them came in the game's first handful of minutes.
If Kaminsky and Dekker get – for argument's sake – 45 points between 'em we believe the supporting cast of this Badgers' bunch must come through with another 30 points if they're gonna snag this tilt and no doubt the likes of F Nigel Hayes (12 points) and G Bronson Koenig (12 points but on 12 shots against Kentucky) must kick in something points-wise but here's a vote that says Wisconsin also must get some bench production and have an X-factor at work … is this the time when now-backup G Traevon Jackson makes some cut-and-slash moves to the hoop and perhaps picks up key fouls against Duke's front line?
Meanwhile, Duke zooms into this championship game playing its very best b-ball of the season – last weekend's win against Michigan State not only featured a high-level defensive performance both in the paint and on the perimeter but the ACC gang cherry-picked a whole bunch of points, forced some 14 M-State turnovers (it only seemed like more!) and wound up with four players snaring five-or-more rebounds as everybody hit the glass with a real fury including C Jahlil Okafor (18 points and 6 rebounds against Sparty) and tourney star/MVP F Justise Winslow (19 points and 9 boards against Michigan State).
The Dookies won a tourney game by 20 points in which they shot just 2-of-10 from beyond the three-point stripe – now when did you ever think that was gonna happen! – and they won in a romp on a night when defense-first G Quinn Cook not only locked down his enemies but chipped in 17 points and didn't have a single turnover in 35 minutes of action.
Hey, if Cook and Company take away Wisconsin's three-point shooting and collapse enough with double-teams in the paint that makes Kaminsky/Dekker ineffectual in their respective drives to the hoop than Wisconsin's not gonna get that first championship since 1941 but we've all seen the Badgers defy the odds this week in Indianapolis.
Just ask that 38-and-done Kentucky team, alright?
Here's a look at how both Duke and Wisconsin have made it through this year's NCAA Tournament:
|3-20||Robert Morris||- 23||85-56|
|3-22||San Diego St.||- 9.5||68-49|
|4-4||Michigan St.||- 5||81-61|
How 'bout that? The Blue Devils have covered all five of their NCAA Tournament games thus far while winning by a per-game average of 17.6 points per game.
|3-20||Coastal Carolina||- 20.5||86-72|
|3-26||North Carolina||- 6||79-72|
Wisconsin's covered its last three tourney games in a row following a pair of non-cover wins to kick-start this "Big Dance" run. Overall, the Badgers have won their NCAA Tournament games by an average of 8.4 ppg. Did you notice that Wisky's won each of its last four tourney games by exactly 7 points?
Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers have steamrolled their way through the entire NCAA Tournament and now it's time to cap the "Big Dance" with tonight's Side & Totals action between Wisconsin versus Duke. Get in now on the NCAA Tournament Championship Game – just go online or call our exclusive toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 -- and we'll send you straight into the winner's circle. Hey, we're also banging out lots of NBA winners and you don't want to miss the start of this 2015 Major-League Baseball Season too and so go ahead and join the fun and profits today with all the action this month.
NCAA TOURNAMENT POINTSPREADBREAKDOWN CHART
Note: We have included all the conferences/leagues that have two-or-more pointspread verdicts in this year's NCAA Tournament (and we've boldfaced the leagues on center stage this evening) – so this is how things look spreadwise while heading into tonight's NCAA Championship Game:
Note: Get our NCAA Championship Game Re-Cap in tomorrow's edition of Jim Sez.