Final Thoughts From Monday’s National Title Game

Bo
Bo

Bo Ryan had reasons to be upset following his loss to Duke but he should have left the "rent-a-player" comment for another time.

What Wisconsin Head Coach Bo Ryan said after his team’s loss Monday night wasn’t inaccurate. It was ill-timed, but not wrong in any sense. Ryan made a comment during the post-game press conference in which he said, “We don’t do rent-a-player.”

Ryan was obviously referring to the fact that Duke has at least two players who will make the quick transition from college basketball to the NBA. Duke Head Coach Mike Kryzyewski took exception by saying he wished Ryan didn’t say it like that. “One and done is fine, but rent-a-player sounds like your doing something illegal,” said Coach K.

The five-time champion coach can spin it any way he wants to but Ryan isn’t wrong. Kryzyewski is no different than John Calipari who could lose as many as seven players who have played two years or less. I give credit to both Ryan and Coach K because they’ve done things the best way they’ve seen fit. I believe Ryan’s method is more honorable but Kryzyewski is playing by the rules and I can’t blame him for that.

I do wish Ryan would have chosen another time to make the comment he did because he came off like a sore loser. What he should have been harping on is what I’m talking about next.

“Official” Mess

If you need any more proof that the officiating in college basketball is bad then you need look no further than the National Championship game. Where Bo Ryan should have spent more of his time complaining was about the fact his team went from being whistled for just two fouls in the first half to 13 in the second half. The disparity is the result of one thing and anyone who knows college basketball knows it has nothing to do with Duke being more aggressive.

While Ryan has a great deal of respect as a coach, no one can manipulate the officials like Coach K can. His ability to wear down refs is legendary and it was on full display Monday night.

JW

The correct call may not have changed the outcome but I guess we'll never know.

If you recall his comments coming off the court to CBS’ Tracy Wolfson, he started with a sarcastic barb about the fouls called on his team. In fairness, he had a right to be upset because the disparity was clearly in favor of the Badgers. What should happen is that there should be a little more balance in foul calls but not in every case. What shouldn’t happen is a total reversal like we saw in the title game.

My firm belief is that college officials call games with one goal in mind, to control it. They are intimated by the players and the coaches so rather than let the kids play they over-officiate and turn the game into a free throw shooting contest. This is all done to keep trash-talking and rough play to a minimum. The officials have to seek some balance and stop blowing the whistle for everything that “looks” too rough.

Fingertips

I have no idea what would have happened had the officials gotten the call right where Justise Winslow clearly touched the ball last as it went out of bounds. What I do know is that it should have been the Badgers’ ball and had they been able to get a bucket on their end tings could have been drastically different. Unfortunately, the officiating crew screwed up again.

As has been my argument with using instant replay all along, if you aren’t going to get it right then college and professional sports should not be using it. All it does is create more problems than if it had never been used.

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Duke, Wisconsin Meet for the Title Tonight

Badgers, Blue Devils
Badgers, Blue Devils

Wisconsin and Duke meet in what should be a great National Title game tonight.

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.

Frank

How effective will Frank the Tank be tonight against Duke?

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.

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NCAA National Championship Game Facts

casino-13

The NCAA National Championship will be decided on Monday when the Duke Blue Devils meet the Wisconsin Badgers.

Here are a few facts about the National Championship Game.

  • Both Duke and Wisconsin are No. 1 seeds. The Final Four this season had three No. 1 seeds and Michigan State a No. 7 seed.
  • The lowest seed ever to win the National Championship since the tournament field was increased to 64 was Villanova during 1985. That year the Wildcats were seeded No. 8.
  • Last season Connecticut won the national title by defeating Kentucky in the final. Connecticut was a No. 7 seed in that tournament.
  • Kentucky and Connecticut combined to have the highest seed total for a title games at 15, as Kentucky last season was seeded No. 8.
  • As well as UConn, six other schools have won multiple national championships over the past 30 years. Duke has won 4, North Carolina has won 3, Kentucky has won 3 and Louisville, Kansas and Florida have on two each.
  • Since 1985, the National Championship has been won 18 times by a No. 1 seed and this season will be the nineteenth time.
  • The championship game with the highest point spread was in 1996 when the Kentucky Wildcats defeated Kansas by 10 points but failed to cover as 14-point chalk.
  • Over the past 30 seasons, the underdogs are 15-14 ATS.
  • The favorite however has won three of the past four national title games, with two wins by double digits.
  • The 1990 title game did not have a line because betting on a school within the state was not allowed and UNLV was in the title game and Las Vegas is in Nevada.
  • Bettors on the total points have seen the UNDER cash in 16 of the 29 games since 1985 and 4 of the past 5 seasons.

The two teams meeting in this national title game are separated by odds makers by only 1 point or less when it comes to betting. Wisconsin opened as a 1-point favorite but many books have reduced the game to a pick ‘em.

Duke was impressive in its Final Four win over Michigan State. After trailing in the first five minutes of the game by 8 points, Duke outscored Michigan State by 28 points the rest of the way to win 81-61.

By now, everyone knows Wisconsin defeated Kentucky to end the undefeated season of the Wildcats but the Badgers looked like they had won the national title on Saturday and could work against them.

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Bad Calls, Bad Behavior… Just Another NCAA …

Cauley-Stein
Cauley-Stein

Apparently Willie Caulie-Stein had more important things to do than to properly shake hands with the Badgers.

If you had told me that the Wisconsin Badgers would go seven minutes without a basket in the National Semi-Final game against unbeaten Kentucky I would have asked “How much did they lose by?” That’s exactly what happened but the Badgers scratched and clawed from behind and made the type of plays you’d expect from a veteran team in defeating the Wildcats 71-64.

While Kentucky Head Coach John Calipari was much more gracious in defeat than I had anticipated, a couple of his players went the inappropriate and sore loser route. In a comment that immediately blew up social media, Kentucky’s Andrew Harrison was heard on open microphone saying “F— that n—–” in a response to a teammate getting a question about Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky.

Prior to this, which I’ll get back to in a second, Wildcats’ big man Willie Cauley-Stein walked off the court while most his teammates properly and respectfully shook hands with Wisconsin players. I understand he was upset but if you’re going to win 37 times and want respect and attention then lose the same way. Perhaps Cauley-Stein realized just how poor he played for a seven-footer who should have been dominating games. Two points and five rebounds? You want to point fingers Wildcats’ fans then I’d start right there.

Wildcats

John Calipari showed much more class than his players did following their loss to Wisconsin.

As for Harrison, most white players would probably take his comment as a sign of respect these days which is sad commentary on where we are today with that word. Still, can you imagine if Kaminsky had said that about him?

There are plenty of people who want to celebrate the fact that the Badgers are a predominantly white team who beat an overwhelmingly black-dominated team. That’s pretty sad but you and I both know it’s true. Instead of looking at the color of the players, how about just realizing that Wisconsin is a damn good team that does what it does well?

I have no doubt that’s what Harrison’s comment was aimed at and I guarantee his frustration led to it. Unfortunately we live in a world where race and ethnicity will never be 100% accepted. That doesn’t mean we can’t do better though. Regardless, the Badgers did what 37 other opponents could not and now they have chance to win the school’s first national title since 1941.

Tit for Tat

A lot of Kentucky fans are still screaming today about the shot Wisconsin’s Nigel Hayes made as the 35-second clock expired. There’s no question the ball had not left Hayes’ hand yet but under the rules a review was not available. Therefore the shot counted and the play continued.

First let me say how nice it is not to have review for everything in college basketball. These games are already painfully jammed with commercials and adding more stoppages would actually make it worse. That said, perhaps the missed call was a bit of retribution for the Badgers.

Earlier in the second half, Kentucky’s Trey Lyles cleared smacked Wisconsin’s Josh Gasser in the paint with an open hand to the side of Gasser’s face. The officials, who had been shaky all night, decided there was no foul. The fact the officials chose to call nothing is indicative of just how intimidated college officials are of these coaches and players.

This should have been at the very least a flagrant one and possibly a flagrant two and an ejection but nothing? Ultimately this is how basketball justice works if you believe in that sort of thing. The Hayes’ shot should have been called differently and so to should the Lyles’ smackdown.

Both situations are history now and so is the Kentucky run at an unbeaten season.

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Player, Team Props for Today’s Semi-Final Action

Final 4
Final 4

I've got some great prop bets for you to ponder as the Final Four tips off this evening.

Thanks to our friends at Bovada, I’m able to provide you with some prop bets I really like heading into today’s Final Four action.

Michigan State vs Duke

(Michigan State @ Duke) – Total Points – Travis Trice (MSU)

Over                                      17½ (-140)

Under                                   17½ (EVEN)

(Michigan State @ Duke) – Total Assists – Travis Trice (MSU)

Over                                      4 (-120)

Under                                   4 (-120)

(Michigan State @ Duke) – Total 3 Point Shots Made – Travis Trice (MSU)

Over                                      2½ (-180)

Under                                   2½ (+140)

(Michigan State @ Duke) – Total Points – Denzel Valentine (MSU)

Over                                      14½ (-150)

Under                                   14½ (+110)

(Michigan State @ Duke) – Total Rebounds – Branden Dawson (MSU)

Over                                      8½ (-130)

Under                                   8½ (-110)

(Michigan State @ Duke) – Total Points & Rebounds – Matt Costello (MSU)

Over                                      9½ (-130)

Under                                   9½ (-110)

Spartans Analysis: I think the plays here revolve around Matt Costello and Brendon Dawson. Rebounding and second-chance points will be a critical factor in this game and the ability to neutralize Okafor and company on the boards will fall on these two. I like the OVER in both of their props. As for Trice and Valentine, I’m concerned about the quickness of the Blue Devils’ backcourt. I think the UNDER is a wise play on most of their props.

(Michigan State @ Duke) – Total Points – Jahlil Okafor (Duke)

Over                                      17½ (-130)

Under                                   17½ (-110)

(Michigan State @ Duke) – Total Rebounds – Jahlil Okafor (Duke)

Over                                      7½ (-140)

Under                                   7½ (EVEN)

(Michigan State @ Duke) – Total Blocks – Jahlil Okafor (Duke)

Over                                      1½ (-150)

Under                                   1½ (+110)

(Michigan State @ Duke) – Total Points – Quinn Cook (Duke)

Over                                      14½ (-130)

Under                                   14½ (-110)

(Michigan State @ Duke) – Total Points – Justise Winslow (Duke)

Over                                      13½ (-140)

Under                                   13½ (EVEN)

(Michigan State @ Duke) – Total Rebounds – Justise Winslow (Duke)

Over                                      7½ (-130)

Under                                   7½ (-110)

(Michigan State @ Duke) – Total Points – Tyus Jones (Duke)

Over                                      11½ (-140)

Under                                   11½ (EVEN)

Blue Devils Analysis: Tom Izzo is facing a difficult choice in terms of trying to take away Okafor or trying to limit the play of the guards. Big bodies are at a premium for Sparty and that’s why I like the OVER on Okafor’s props. The emergence of Winslow will continue for Duke as well so take the OVER on him as well.

(Michigan State @ Duke) – Total Team Points – Michigan State

Over                                      67 (-120)

Under                                   67 (-120)

(Michigan State @ Duke) – Total Team Points – Duke

Over                                      72 (-120)

Under                                   72 (-120)

Final Analysis: I like the Blue Devils and the OVER. I think the great play of Michigan State has run its’ course now and talent will take over for Duke. I like the OVER for MSU as well but only because they’ll be making some hoops in garbage time.

Kaminsky

Frank Kaminsky will have his work cut out for him among the tall trees of Kentucky.

Wisconsin vs Duke

(Wisconsin @ Kentucky) – Total Points – Frank Kaminsky (Wisconsin)

Over                                      17½ (-130)

Under                                   17½ (-110)

(Wisconsin @ Kentucky) – Total Rebounds – Frank Kaminsky (Wisconsin)

Over                                      7½ (-130)

Under                                   7½ (-110)

(Wisconsin @ Kentucky) – Total Points – Sam Dekker (Wisconsin)

Over                                      15½ (-130)

Under                                   15½ (-110)

(Wisconsin @ Kentucky) – Total Points – Nigel Hayes (Wisconsin)

Over                                      11½ (-130)

Under                                   11½ (-110)

Badgers Analysis: It’s hard not to like Sam Dekker. He plays hard and with some attitude but how long can he stay hot? I’ll take the OVER on points for him but not by much. As for Kaminsky, rebounding will be huge with so many fellow big men to compete against. I like the UNDER on him across the board. I do like Hayes and the OVER because he will be forced to make some plays.

(Wisconsin @ Kentucky) – Total Points – Aaron Harrison (UK)

Over                                      11½ (-130)

Under                                   11½ (-110)

(Wisconsin @ Kentucky) – Total Points – Willie Cauley-Stein (UK)

Over                                      9½ (-130)

Under                                   9½ (-110)

(Wisconsin @ Kentucky) – Total Rebounds – Willie Cauley-Stein (UK)

Over                                      7 (-130)

Under                                   7 (-110)

(Wisconsin @ Kentucky) – Total Blocks – Willie Cauley-Stein (UK)

Over                                      2 (-110)

Under                                   2 (-130)

(Wisconsin @ Kentucky) – Total Points – Karl-Anthony Towns (UK)

Over                                      12½ (-130)

Under                                   12½ (-110)

(Wisconsin @ Kentucky) – Total Rebounds – Karl-Anthony Towns (UK)

Over                                      6½ (-130)

Under                                   6½ (-110)

(Wisconsin @ Kentucky) – Total Points – Trey Lyles (UK)

Over                                      9½ (-140)

Under                                   9½ (EVEN)

Wildcats Analysis: Towns will be the focal point after he proved he could score in the low post much better than Cauley-Stein could. That said, go with the UNDER on points for him and the OVER for Cauley-Stein who plays better than he did against Notre Dame. Aaron Harrison will have to hit some outside shots and I think that’s why the OVER is a smart play with him.

Wisconsin Total Points 63.5

OVER (-130)

UNDER (-110)

Kentucky Total Points 68.5

OVER (-130)

UNDER (-110)

Final Analysis:

I don’t see how this game is anything but a nail-biter. I like the Wildcats and the UNDER and the Badgers with the OVER in a game that is settled by a couple of points or less.

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Final Four, Tournament MOP Odds for Your Betting Pleasure

JW
JW

Justise Winslow is an excellent pick for tournament MOP if you have Duke winning of course.

With the Final Four almost here, I have the latest key odds from our friends at Bovada.

Odds to Win the 2015 NCAA Championship 

Kentucky #1                       2/3

If you find it surprising that Kentucky is that type of favorite then I also have some ocean front property in Nebraska to sell you as well. The Wildcats survived a monumental upset bid by Notre Dame last Saturday night by riding the inside play of Karl Anthony Towns. His big night will certainly gain the attention of the Wisconsin Badgers and could also open things up for Willie Cauley-Stein.

Duke #1                                3/1

Mike Krzyzewski brings his Blue Devils to the Final Four for the 12th time which ties him with John Wooden of UCLA. What was most impressive about Duke on Sunday was that they advanced without a big day from Jahlil Okafor who had single digit points and rebounds. Enter Justise Winslow who has been outstanding in the tournament and looks to continue that play against the Spartans.

Wisconsin #1                     4/1

With most people thinking the de facto National Title game is between UK and the Badgers in the Semis, it’s a bit strange to see Wisconsin lower than Duke. Either way, the Badgers have to be focused on the Wildcats and I believe they are. Where Notre Dame struggled was in hitting threes at the rate they normally do; I don’t think that will be a problem for the Badgers who will learn from the Irish that taking the ball to the hoop against Kentucky can lead to high percentage shots and kickouts for three-pointers.

TI

Tom Izzo will look to Travis Trice to control the floor for his Spartans.

Michigan State #7            8/1

This team has beaten one top 25 team all season. They lost to Texas Southern… at home in East Lansing! Yet here come the Spartans and Tom Izzo who has mastered the art of preparing his teams for successful runs in March. If the big men can stay out of foul trouble and Brandon Dawson and Darnell Valentine limit some of the bone-headed mistakes from recent games then I believe Michigan State has every chance to be right there in the end.

The Verdict: I’m doubting the Wildcats. I have all season and all they do is keep winning. Still, you’d be hard-pressed not to throw a few bucks on the Spartans who just won’t go away.

Exact finals matchup in the 2015 NCAA Championship

Kentucky vs Duke                            10/11

Kentucky vs Michigan State        3/1

Wisconsin vs Duke                          3/1

Wisconsin vs Michigan State      7/1

The match-up we all want to see: Kentucky-Duke… The match-up no one wants to see: Wisconsin-Michigan State… The match-up we are going to see: Put your money on Wisconsin-Duke.

Odds to win Tournament MOP

Karl Anthony Towns (Kentucky)                3/1

Willie Cauley-Stein (Kentucky)                 4/1

Jahlil Okafor (Duke)                                       5/1

Justise Winslow (Duke)                                5/1

Aaron Harrison (Kentucky)                          7/1

Frank Kaminsky (Wisconsin)                       8/1

Sam Dekker (Wisconsin)                              8/1

Travis Trice (Michigan State)                      12/1

Denzel Valentine (Michigan State)          16/1

Branden Dawson (Michigan State)           20/1

Analysis: Towns is the sexy pick right now because of his play against Notre Dame last weekend and rightfully so, but now he’s facing coaches who won’t let him operate the way he did against the Irish. Cauley-Stein is always a good bet but I’ll be honest; his inside game isn’t very good. If Wisconsin and Duke/MSU keeps him off of the boards, I don’t think he’ll score enough.

For Duke, I look at Okafor the same way I do Kentucky’s big men but the difference is that his low post game is actually a little better. Winslow is a fantastic play because he’s been so hot.

Wisconsin can be so balanced at times that it’s hard to lay the MOP honors on just one guy but Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker are listed here for a reason. Either would excellent plays.

In terms of the Spartans, I think you have to go with Travis Trice. To me, he’s the only one who has the consistency to score, dish and play defense.

Verdict: Winslow is my guy.

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Memories of the 1991 Final Four as Teams Ascend on Indy

Final Four
Final Four

The 2015 Final Four has some interesting similarities to the one from 1991.

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.

Trice

With everyone paying attention to the other three teams, don't count out Travis Trice and the Spartans.

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?

 

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