Men's Basketball 2015 NCAA Tournament Final Four Game Breakdowns

Kentucky Men's College Basketball


NCAA Tournament Final Four Game Breakdowns


#1 Kentucky vs. #1 Wisconsin (Indianapolis, Indiana)

Things certainly got tougher for the Kentucky Wildcats in the Elite Eight. Rather than storming to a blowout victory, Kentucky needed a couple of big free throws late to hold on for a two-point win. Notre Dame played just a stellar game of basketball against the undefeated behemoth. It held the UK offense, non-Towns division, down all game. The Irish forced more turnovers than they committed, doubled up on the Wildcats in assists and actually finished with more offensive rebounds. For the first time seemingly all season, foul trouble was also an issue for Kentucky as Karl-Anthony Towns repeatedly had to sit even though he was the only player creating consistent offense. This is the worry for John Calipari’s team moving forward into the Final Four. How great a tool is this depth if the Cats only have one reliable post scorer?

For the Wisconsin Badgers, things are looking a bit better. Wisconsin put up 85 points on the vaunted Arizona defense, and all concerns about its offense were put to rest. Josh Gasser and Nigel Hayes were solid; Frank Kaminsky was a monster inside, creating even more for his team than his 29 points would suggest. And Sam Dekker has been this team’s MVP through four rounds. If his performance in the Sweet 16 wasn’t enough, Dekker topped himself in the Elite Eight by scoring 27 points on 8-of-11 shooting and hitting one of the biggest and ballsiest threes in this tournament. Dekker rose above the fray. There were so many foul shots and made shots in this one that the two teams combined for just seven offensive rebounds. But Dekker was the difference, especially from three (5-of-6) where he dominated the entire Arizona roster (2-of-6 total).

With these two one seeds facing off in Indianapolis with a trip to the national championship on the line, it will be performances inside the key that make the difference. Wisconsin has talented bodies on the interior, but it cannot deal with Kentucky’s length and depth down low. Zach Auguste was a perfect example of how one man can create havoc though. His performance should be a wakeup call for the Wildcats big men. They can’t chase every block and leave the entire paint open for rebounds and put-backs. On the outside is where these two squads matchup better athletically. Dekker and Gasser are big and athletic enough to play both ends against the Wildcats. The same goes for Bronson Koenig, and if Traevon Jackson is able to use these few days off to get where he can play 10-20 minutes in this game, all the better. In fact, the Badgers may have moments to exploit their size and strength whenever Calipari calls on Tyler Ulis off the bench.

Kentucky has proven it can still win tough ballgames when it doesn’t play extremely well yet the opponent executes impeccably. This means the Wildcats still have to be the favorites to advance. But the margin between them and anyone else has shrunk to something approaching normal ratios.


#1 Duke vs. #7 Michigan State (Indianapolis, Indiana)

In another surprise from these highly contested late-round games, the Duke Blue Devils advanced to the Final Four on the back of their defense. Against the number-one shooting team and top 10 scoring offense of the Gonzaga Bulldogs, Duke held its opponent to 52 points, nine total free-throw attempts and just two made threes. It was a special performance. The 52 points were the lowest scoring output for Gonzaga all year long. In fact, it was the lowest total the Zags have had in a game since December of 2009! On their own offensive end, the Blue Devils were a bit underwhelming, but showing this lockdown capability brings this team’s ceiling to a new height. As always, Justise Winslow made the big plays and hit a couple big shots near the end, and Matt Jones had a bit of a coming-out party, especially from behind the arc. His four made threes tied for the most he had in a game all season.

For Michigan State, in a battle between Hall of Fame coaches carrying their tournament teams above seed, Tom Izzo and the Spartans prevailed yet again. Missed free throws at the end of regulation by Marvin Clark opened the door for a made free throw by Mangok Mathiang to push the game into overtime. But other than that slipup, MSU grabbed the slightest of edges in most other departments. The Spartans had the advantage from three, as was expected against a poor-shooting Louisville club. They also finished with the guard-play advantage despite turning the ball over a few times against the press. Terry Rozier was just awful from the floor, shooting 6-of-23, and a lot of that performance has to be credited to the Spartan exterior defense.

In this Final Four matchup, Michigan State is going to need a bit more if it hopes to advance to the championship game. Free-throw shooting has been an issue all season, and the Spartans will surely be on the losing end of it in a game against Duke. They will also struggle to win with solely offense against this high-powered Blue Devils squad. They will instead need to lock down on defense like we saw at the end of the overtime period against the Cardinals. The matchup to watch closely will be if Justise Winslow checks Denzel Valentine. Valentine has the size advantage against any of the Duke guards, but putting Winslow on him could silence the upperclassman. Without a post scorer to rival Jahlil Okafor, Michigan State will need to win on the outside, and Valentine will be a huge part of that.

At many points throughout the season, fans and analysts alike pointed to Kentucky and Duke as the two best teams in the nation. Things are shaping up for the most chalk-final the bracket could have generated.


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