Men's Basketball 2015 NCAA Tournament Championship Game Breakdown

Wisconsin's Sam Dekker

 NCAA Tournament Championship Game Breakdown

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

For the first time since 2008, the national championship game will be a battle of one seeds. To the surprise of many, one of those one seeds is not the Kentucky Wildcats.

Wisconsin downed the Wildcats with a superb gameplan and even better execution. It really seemed like the better basketball team, at least on this night. It started with the Badgers getting UK down by nine early, Kentucky’s biggest deficit of the tournament and one point shy of its biggest of the entire season. The first half lead was held mostly by Frank Kaminsky scoring down low and Wisconsin dominating the glass.

After the Cats were able to tie the game heading to half, the start of the second half was a similar story. Wisconsin came out so strong, devastating UK every time it switched on a screen. At the very end, to clinch a lead and perhaps put the game away, it was Sam Dekker coming up large for the third straight round. His step-back three, drawn charge, drawn foul sequence in the final two minutes put Wisconsin ahead for good.

The term instant classic is itself rather oxymoronic. Yet if it wasn’t for some shaky officiating in the second half (the most egregious being a non-flagrant against Trey Lyles and a non-shot clock violation against Nigel Hayes), this game would fit the description of what that phrase is supposed to stand for.

In the other of the Indianapolis double-header, it didn’t take long for the Duke Blue Devils to exert their dominance over Michigan State and take their place in the title game. After an early barrage of threes put MSU up, Duke battled back, took the lead and never relinquished control from there on out.

The free-throw line belonged to the Blue Devils. Duke made 27 freebies; the Spartans only attempted 16! Duke also won on the boards and in the turnover matchup. Its 52 percent shooting from the floor also showed how good this team can be even without launching from three.

When Duke faces Wisconsin for the national championship, everything is going to come down to execution. Both of these teams are too good for the other to simply take control. Wisconsin will want to slow things down and get Kaminsky one-on-one against Jahlil Okafor. He will make the Duke frosh guard him 24 feet from the basket. The Blue Devils will want the same matchup on their end, avoiding double-teams. It is likely they’ll need a larger output from beyond the arc in the title game than they needed in the Final Four.

The Badgers’ Traevon Jackson seems to be partially back to his old self, at least in the minutes he is seeing. This gives his team the edge off the bench against a particularly shallow Duke squad. Duke could use a big performance from Matt Jones in this one to help balance out the scoring load which is routinely dominated by just four players.

Prior to the season, a title matchup of these two teams would have been highly regarded. The same holds true now. Without letting Wisconsin’s specific win to get here overwhelm the storyline, these two teams are both playing at the tops of their respective games when it matters most. A win by either side wouldn’t be surprising in the least. The only thing the Badgers must be careful of is not thinking for a second that the W in the Final Four was the ultimate goal after how last season ended. That type of letup or slow start could be the difference.

Tournament Central