Wisconsin (-1) vs Duke (O/U 140) – We’ve finally arrived at the National Championship game after 62 crazy tournament games (and four ridiculous play-in games) and we have Duke and Wisconsin fighting it out. These two played each other way back in early December in Madison in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. Duke shot the lights out and handed the Badgers a rare home-loss by the score of 80-70.
Here’s my breakdown for tonight’s match-up.
Duke on Offense/Wisconsin on Defense
There’s no question Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski and his staff will watch a lot of Wisconsin’s tape in their win over Kentucky. What they’ll be focused on is just how did the Badgers defend in the paint. The Blue Devils’ Jahlil Okafor might be just a freshman but he has a better inside game than most of the bigs for Kentucky so Wisconsin will have to vary when they double and when they don’t.
The Badgers are incredibly long and make moving the ball around the court difficult. Quin Cook will need to use his speed and quickness to create passing lanes and he’ll need to be the catalyst. Along with Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow, the Badgers will have their hands full because Duke holds an advantage in rebounding on the offensive end of the court.
Wisconsin on Offense/Duke on Defense
Duke hasn’t played defense this well in years. I’d go so far as to say that if they had played this well defensively in past tournaments then Coach K would have another title or two. The task will not be easy however because the Badgers can get scoring from so many different places. Obviously it starts with Frank Kaminsky, the National Player of the Year, who can score from inside or outside.
If Duke puts Okafor on Kaminsky, look for “The Tank” to take Okafor away from the basket at times and down in the post at times as well in an effort to get him into foul trouble. The other key for Wisconsin is Sam Dekker who is as difficult a match-up as there is on the court tonight. Dekker has the ability to both drive to the basket and shoot the three-ball as well. At 6′ 9″ Dekker makes it very tough on defenders who have to be careful not to give him too much room or he will pop the deep ball before you know it.
Where the Game May Be Decided
Badgers’ guard Bronson Koenig will need to play well. He’s going to be dealing with guards quicker than he is on both ends of the court. What that means is that the senior will have use his experience to find open shots and direct the offense to high-percentage opportunities. I think you’ll see Bo Ryan go with fellow guard Traevon Jackson as a change up because he gets to the basket better than Koenig does. Keep an eye on this combination. It the Wisconsin guards struggle, that favors Duke in a big way.
Trends: The total has gone UNDER in six of Duke’s last seven games… Wisconsin is 21-17-1 against the spread this season… Duke leads the all-time series with Wisconsin 2-1 (all three games since 2007). The Blue Devils are 23-14-1 against the spread in the 2014-2015 season.
The Pick: This is basically a pick’em game. There’s a lot to like about both team’s chances and we know that Coach K has won two of his four titles in Indianapolis. Wisconsin faced the highest seed possible in every game of the tournament and only three other one seeds have ever accomplished that on the way to the title. As much as I’ m thinking the Blue Devils will win this, I can’t help but take Wisconsin who has seemingly been on a mission all season. Take the OVER as well.