In 1991, the Final Four was held in Indianapolis, Indiana which is the same setting for next weekend’s Final Four as well. While that’s a nice coincidence, they don’t stop there.
The two semifinal games in 1991 featured Kansas versus North Carolina and defending champion UNLV versus Duke. The latter was a rematch of the 1990 National Championship game that saw the Running Rebels run the young Duke Blue Devils out of the gym in a 30-point butt-kicking.
The rematch between Duke and UNLV had been highly anticipated all season long and many wondered if the Blue Devils could get revenge. Much like Kentucky today, the Rebs ran through their regular season and tournament unbeaten and had much less competitive games on their way to the Final Four than has Kentucky.
While Wisconsin and Kentucky didn’t meet in the National Title game last year, they did meet in the National Semis as they will again on Saturday. The Badgers held a four-point lead at the half in 2014 before losing 74-73.
The Wildcats would go on to lose to UConn in the title game.
Certainly there are similarities between 1991 and this coming Final Four but what many often forgot about the UNLV-Duke game was that it was in fact a semi-final game and not for the title. Duke still needed to get past a good Kansas team on that Monday night and did for their first National Championship.
What’s different this time around is that despite the Duke-Michigan State game being extremely overshadowed, the Blue Devils will at least be given a shot at defeating either Kentucky or Wisconsin should the Badgers pull the upset late Saturday night. Can we say the same for this version of Tom Izzo’s team? Personally I don’t think so.
Even though the Spartans proved they could play with the Badgers in an overtime loss in the Big Ten Title game, they would be overwhelming underdogs should they advance to play Kentucky. The fact that Michigan State will be treated like the red-headed step-child of this Final Four won’t be lost on Izzo and I expect him to use it as motivation for his team heading into their match-up with Duke.
If you want to know what the folks at CBS want to see, it’s safe to say a Wisconsin-Michigan State title game isn’t it. While both teams have talent, they are also typical Big Ten teams who grind out every possession and play with aggressiveness and tenacity that sometimes doesn’t make for great basketball.
Therefore, either a Kentucky-Duke or Wisconsin-Duke title game would certainly be the preference for the television people and probably the NCAA as well. Of those two, a Kentucky-Duke game would probably be ratings gold. You’d have John Calipari going for not just a second national championship but also an unbeaten season.
On the other hand, Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski would be going for his fifth title during his record tying 12th Final Four. Coach K is tied with the legendary John Wooden for most Final Four appearances.
While this season’s version of the Final Four is different on many fronts from the 1991 grouping, there are some interesting similarities that couldn’t go unnoticed. Also part of the irony is the fact that former UNLV Head Coach Jerry Tarkanian passed away this year.
Funny how sometimes the stars just align a certain way isn’t it?