What can college basketball do for an encore after four gripping dramatic regional finals that punched the tickets for the blue bloods of college basketball? Cable television rating records have been shattered and Saturday’s viewership promises to equal all those Seinfeld reruns all balled up into one.
America has the teams it wants.
Private school power, Duke with the game’s all-time winningest coach and three fantastic freshmen talents. The decision to start Matt Jones and slide Justise Winslow at the four for Amile Jefferson has made the Blue Devils a more athletic and defensive minded unit.
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The young guys of Kentucky, representing the Evil Empire to most of college basketball’s purists. Talented, deep and oh so confident. All nine in the Wildcat rotation will be drafted in the NBA, the only questions are whether it’s this June or next and which round. Karl Anthony-Towns has established himself as a dominant half-court offensive player and the go-to-guy for Kentucky.
Michigan State and Tom Izzo have that blue-collar, lunch pail spirit. The trio of Travis Trice, Branden Dawson and Denzel Valentine have proved that toughness is as valuable a skill as any in the basketball arsenal.
This Wisconsin team with upperclassmen filling the stat sheet comprised mainly of three and four star recruits from the suburbs has the backing of America’s heartland. Frank Kaminsky’s rise from a three-star recruit from Benet Academy to National Player of the Year gives inspiration to every latebloomer in America.
Kentucky vs Wisconsin
Willie Cauley-Stein defending Frank Kaminsky.
Mr. Offense, meet Mr. Defense. Two first team All Americans go head-to-head with incredibly unique skill sets. Look for Kentucky to make Kaminsky defend and get back in transition. Kentucky will force Kaminsky and co. to expend energy and put the advantage to the deeper team.
Player to Watch
Quietly, Trey Lyles has become Mr. Indispensable. Lyles brings an offensive versatility - an ability to rebound, pass, drive the ball and distribute. When the ‘Cats stall on offense look for Lyles to make the play that makes the play - he tips the ball in the right direction or forces the defense to react to his cut.
Duke vs Michigan State
Justise Winslow vs Branden Dawson
Two of the nation’s best athletes, if they weren’t on the hardwood, they could easily play on Sundays. Winslow has become Duke’s most assertive player and the one who converts the big play in the big spot. Dawson can match the physicality.
Player to Watch
Matt Jones has been the spark of the team. He’s contributed with active perimeter defense and timely outside shooting.