Two for the money: NCAA Tournament down to championship two

04/06/15 by Matthew S. Vandriak

And then there were two. From a field of 68 two and a half weeks ago, the last two teams standing will battle for the 2015 NCAA Basketball Championship, and neither of them are named Kentucky to the surprise of many. Wisconsin ended what seemed to be a season of destiny for the Wildcats, while creating the opportunity for a new destiny of their own. For Duke, it's a return to the "big dance" and a chance to win their first national title since 2010. So who's going to win? Let's take a closer look at the Badgers and the Blue Devils.
Duke comes in with a record of 34 and 4. The Blue Devils were the top seed and the champions of the South Region. Duke has been impressive in their five tournament games, outscoring their opponents by an average of 17.6 points. The key to the Blue Devils tourney success has been their defense. In those five wins, the Blue Devils have not allowed more than 62 points in a game and have held their opponents to an average of 55 points per game.
Wisconsin comes in at 36 and 3 overall. The Badgers were the #1 seed and champions of the West Region. The Badgers have taken the opposite approach to Duke's way of winning with defense. Wisconsin has just outscored their 5 opponents, averaging 78.6 points per game in the tourney. The Badgers have scored over 70 points in the three of those games, and 85 or more in the other two. On defense, the Badgers are giving up an average of 70.2 points against in their five tourney games, and ironically, the least amount of points they've given up were 64 in their Final Four win over Kentucky. Besides their 14 point win over Coastal Carolina in the opening round, Wisconsin has won their past four games each by 7 points.

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Duke has been led by Justise Winslow and Jahlil Okafor. Winslow's averaged 15 points and 9.4 rebounds per game in this years tournament, while Okafor is averaging 16 points per game. Wisconsin has been led by Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker. Kaminsky has averaged 22.2 points and 8.8 rebounds per game, while Dekker has averaged 20.6 points per game. Tyrus Jones has also averaged 11 points per game for the Blue Devils, while Nigel Hayes is averaging 12.2 points per game for the Badgers.
The key to victory for Duke will be three point shooting. The Blue Devils have been great from outside the arc in this years tourney, shooting 39.7 percent. Duke shot 7 for 12 from three point land in their 10 point regular season win over Wisconsin. The Badgers also had a hard time with Kentucky's big man, Karl Anthony Towns, who scored 16 points and had 9 rebounds in their Final Four matchup. Okafor could pose the same kind of problem for the Badgers down low. Rebounding has been the key for Wisconsin, especially in their past two games versus Arizona and Kentucky. If the Badgers are as impressive on the glass as they were in those two games, and can find a way to defend Duke's three point shooting, they could win their first national championship since 1941.
The concern for Wisconsin could be that they are coming off of too big of a high after upsetting Kentucky. While most of the talk has been about Wisconsin's Final Four win, Duke was just as impressive, blowing out Michigan State 81 to 61. When it comes to coaching, this is Bo Ryan's first championship game appearance, while Mike Krzyzewzki will be looking to lead Duke to their 5th NCAA title.
This has the makings of being a great national championship game.
My prediction: Duke 71, Wisconsin 65

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