Monday, April 6, 2015

DUKE VS. WISCONSIN: MEN'S BASKETBALL NAT'L CHAMPIONSHIP PREVIEW

By: Connor Glowacki

Photo courtesy of dukereport.com
     The crowded field of 68 schools have been cut down to just two remaining basketball teams for tonight's NCAA Men's Basketball National Championship.
     The Duke Blue Devils and the Wisconsin Badgers were both top, number one seeds heading into the NCAA tournament and this game could be a take on the classic matchup of youth versus experience.
     Before the game starts though, let's take a look at these two teams and how different variables could propel one of them to a national championship tonight.


DUKE (34-4, 15-3 in ACC play)

Duke center Jhalil Okafor
Photo courtesy of philly.com
     When taking a look at the Blue Devils roster, it's pretty amazing that this team has made it as far as they did in the tournament. Yes, Duke had a dominant 29-4 record heading into the NCAA tournament, but this team has three freshmen playing in the starting lineup and only EIGHT scholarship players on their roster.
     That being said, their freshmen have been playing spectacularly as of late. Center Jhalil Okafor has been one of the elite players in the county all year, averaging 17.5 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. Point guard Tyus Jones has demonstrated rare leadership in his freshman season and is averaging 11.5 points, 5.7 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game. Meanwhile, forward Justice Winslow has been coming on strong recently and has emerged as a primary scoring threat in the post. Winslow has been averaging 12.7 points and 6.4 rebounds per game this season.
Duke point guard Tyus Jones
Photo courtesy of draftexpress.com
     Duke also have several talented upperclassmen, including senior guard Quinn Cook (15.6 points, 3.3 rebounds per game), junior forward Amile Jefferson (6.2 points, 5.8 rebounds per game) and   sophomore guard Matt Jones (6.2 points, 2.3 rebounds per game).
     They have been one of the best offensive teams in the nation throughout the 2014-2015 season. Duke is currently fourth in the country in points (80.6 per game), 21st in assists (15.5 per game) and third in field goal percentage (50.2 percent).
     However, their achilles heel has been the defensive side of the ball. The Blue Devils rank just 111th in points allowed (64.2 per game) and 53rd in rebounds (25.2 per game).
Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski
Photo courtesy of NBCMiami.com
     Duke has had a fairly easy stretch in the NCAA tournament as they have outscored their five opponents by a combined total of 88 points.
     This will also be the last time that we'll watch several players on this Blue Devils team. Cook is set to graduate this year, while Okafor and Winslow are most likely going to make themselves eligible for this summer's NBA draft. Okafor is currently ranked second on ESPN Basketball Insider Chad Ford's NBA Big Board for draft prospects, while Winslow is ranked sixth.
     No matter how this game ends, head coach Mike Krzyzewski should be given lots of credit for his team's success this year. But if Duke defeats Wisconsin tonight, this will be Krzyzewski's fifth national championship as the head coach for the Duke Blue Devils.


WISCONSIN (36-3, 16-2 in BIG 10 play)

Wisconsin forward Frank Kaminsky
Photo courtesy of ABC News.
     Unlike the Duke Blue Devils, the Wisconsin Badgers have a whopping 16 players on their roster and their main playing rotation consists of upperclassmen. After losing to the Kentucky Wildcats in the Final Four one year ago, the Badgers got revenge and sent undefeated Kentucky home earlier than anyone expected.
     Senior forward Frank Kaminsky has quite possibly been the best player in the county all season. Kaminsky has averaged 18.7 points and 8.1 rebounds per game and is shooting over 55 percent from the field and 77 percent from the free throw line. He even has the second best three point field goal percentage rate on his own team at an average of over 41 percent.
Wisconsin guard/forward Sam Dekker
Photo courtesy of Bleacher Report
     Junior forward Sam Dekker and sophomore forward Nigel Hayes have also been critical to Wisconsin's success this season. Dekker is currently averaging 13.9 points and 5.4 rebounds per game and his athletic ability to drive past defenders to the basket is garnering the attention of NBA scouts. Hayes is currently averaging 12.4 points and 6.3 rebounds per game.
     Dekker and Kaminsky are currently ranked 13th and 14th respectively on Chad Ford's NBA Big Board for draft prospects.
     Other players that will play pivotal roles tonight for Wisconsin include sophomore guard Bronson Koenig (8.7 points and 2.4 assists per game), senior guard Traevon jackson (8.5 points, 2.6 assists per game), senior guard Josh Gasser (6.8 points, 3.4 rebounds per game), and senior forward Duje Dukan (4.7 points, 2.6 rebounds per game).
Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan
Photo courtesy of NY Post
     Since head coach Bo Ryan took over in 2001, he has turned the Wisconsin basketball program into a national powerhouse. In his 14 seasons with the Badgers, Ryan has a career record of 321 wins to just 121 losses.
     But amazingly enough, this will be Wisconsin's first appearance in a national championship game for basketball since 1941! This could be the year that Ryan finally gets his first national title as a head coach.


Who do you have winning tonight?

Duke?

Wisconsin?

Let me know who and why in the comment section below or send me your comment on Twitter @ConnorGlowacki.

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