Stage is set for Final Four for the ages
By Zach Miller
March Madness always lives up to its name. Although there have been fewer major upsets this year than in past years, the games have still been fantastic and unpredictable. However, despite the consistent surprises, this year’s Final Four is – gasp – not very surprising at all.
The lack of a shock factor in any of the Final Four this year lies in the consistent excellence of each team. Kentucky, Duke, Wisconsin, and Michigan State have all made at least one Final Four appearance in the past six years, and have a total of two combined absences from the past fifteen NCAA tournaments.
The Final Four teams also bring together four of the great coaches in college basketball. John Calipari will be bringing his Kentucky Wildcats to his fourth final four in the past five years. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski is looking to win his fifth national title and cement his legacy as arguably the best coach in modern NCAA history. Wisconsin’s Bo Ryan is commonly known as the best coach in the NCAA who has not won a title, and Michigan State’s Tom Izzo’s nickname “Mr. March” accurately sums up his wizardry in the NCAA tournament.
Now, on to the games: 1-seed Duke versus 7-seed Michigan State, Saturday at 6:09 p.m.; and 1-seed Kentucky versus 1-seed Wisconsin, Saturday at 8:49 p.m. Both games present a clash of styles and storylines.
Duke-Michigan State pits Duke’s explosive offense versus the consummate gritty, tough Tom Izzo team. Duke is led by two possible top-5 picks in the NBA draft, forward Justise Winslow and center Jahlil Okafor. Okafor is a possible number one pick, and the most polished freshman big man in college since Anthony Davis, while Winslow is a freight train who never stops creating havoc for the opposition.
The Spartans are led by a trio of upperclassmen: Travis Trice, their leading scorer; Denzel Valentine, their leader and jack-of-all-trades; and Branden Dawson, an athletic marvel who can single-handedly take over a game.
Kentucky-Wisconsin, though, is the matchup everyone has been waiting for: a rematch of last year’s Final Four; one seed against one seed; Kentucky’s NBA factory versus Wisconsin’s blue collar, old school unselfishness.
Kentucky is undefeated and poised to go down as one of the greatest teams ever if it can win two more games, but Wisconsin’s shooting and experience make it quite safe to assume that this game will go down to the wire.
The Final Four is the climax of the NCAA tournament, four teams that have fought as hard as they could to get two wins away from the NCAA mountaintop. In this year’s Final Four, they all deserve to be there, and they all deserve to win. No matter what happens, these games will be unbelievable.
Peter Santo also Contributed to this report