Frank Kaminsky

Duke Nation

These two talented big men showed that post play is not dead at the college level. Not many 7'0 players has the interior game like these two, reason why their teams were playing for a National Championship. (Greg Nelson/Sports Illustrated)

These two talented big men showed that post play is not dead at the college level. Not many 7'0 players has the interior game like these two, reason why their teams were playing for a National Championship. (Greg Nelson/Sports Illustrated)

The Duke Blue Devils for the 2nd time this season knocked off the Wisconsin Badgers, 68-63, also winning their 5th title in school history, Coach K being apart of all of them. I picked the Badgers in this game only because I don't like Duke, but with my hatred aside, I expected Duke to win the title back in November, mainly because of their stellar freshmen. Jahlil Okafor didn't have monster game, 10 points, 3 board, and 4 fouls, but Tyus Jones did, walking away with the Most Outstanding Players award for scoring 19 of Duke's 37 second half points. 

First and Foremost, I want to say this was a very good basketball game with some very good basketball players. The battle inside between Frank Kaminsky and Jahlil Okafor was an entertaining chess match. Both players are skilled post players and has some moves that you don't see too often in this guard influence era of basketball. Frank being a senior looked to be the more skilled big man in the matchup, forcing Jahlil to sit early in the 1st half with two fouls. 

Okafor had issues with guarding Kaminsky because of his ability to play outside of the paint, also a mean dropped step. Numerous times, Kaminsky took Jahlil off the dribble from the top of the key which led to him being in early foul trouble. Kaminsky scored 21 points and grabbed 12 boards against the Blue Devils, but Jahlil came up with a couple big plays late in the game, with two buckets and a big offensive rebound. 

With 13:39 remaining in the game, Wisconsin was leading 48-39, on a 17-8 run to begin the half. Kamisky dominating the paint was really opening things for Wisconsin, not only because the Okafor wasn't on the court but also it forced the Blue Devils to double which opened things up for the guards on the perimeter. Nigel Hayes went 3-3 before missing his first 3-pointer, finishing with 13 points.

Bronson Koenig also contributed 10 points but I thought late in the game he made some bad decisions, not working the ball around the horn or getting it to the big fella. 

Justice Winslow(21) and Grayson Allen(3) both left their mark in this game with some tough defense and a few good buckets. Allen scored 10 of his 16 points in the 2nd half and was the motor that kept Duke in it with his hustle plays. (Greg Nelson/Sports Illustrated)

Justice Winslow(21) and Grayson Allen(3) both left their mark in this game with some tough defense and a few good buckets. Allen scored 10 of his 16 points in the 2nd half and was the motor that kept Duke in it with his hustle plays. (Greg Nelson/Sports Illustrated)

Duke's defense was the big reason for their victory. Speaking with my partner, Jeris Brooks - biggest Duke Fan I know, it sad - we both agreed that the Dukies had to stop Sam Dekker from going bonkers, and they did. Even though Kaminsky went for numbers, we both expected that, but Dekker only finished with 12 points, half of which came from tip-ins. 

I was expecting Sam to score 25 just because I thought it was his opportunity for him to make his claim as a high draft pick, instead he went 0-6 from the trey ball line. 

I said in our Bracketology issue that Tyus is the key for this Duke team, and looks what happened. Without Okafor, he saddled the team on his back, similar to how he did earlier in the season against Wisconsin. I would like to see him stay, but if the words "Lottery Pick" began to come up with his name, he might not have a choice but to go. (Greg Nelson/Sports Illustrated)

I said in our Bracketology issue that Tyus is the key for this Duke team, and looks what happened. Without Okafor, he saddled the team on his back, similar to how he did earlier in the season against Wisconsin. I would like to see him stay, but if the words "Lottery Pick" began to come up with his name, he might not have a choice but to go. (Greg Nelson/Sports Illustrated)

The best player on the court was Tyus Jones. Jones finished with 23 points, shooting 7-13 from the field. When Jahlil got into foul trouble, Tyus closed out the game, along with some help from Grayson Allen, who also scored 16. This isn't new for Tyus though, he's been closing out games all year, did it against North Carolina, did it against Virginia, and now he did it in the National Championship. I'm not sure what more a FRESHMAN would have to do to prove that he is ready. My rule for 1-n-done is, one must win the National Championship or win the Wooden Award, so he is all good in my book. He doesn't have the prototypical size for a guard but the boy can hoop. 

This is another ring for coach K and a first for 4-year senior Quin Cook, who was the leader of this team. Like I said before I HATE Duke, I will always root against them, but I actually like the players on this team because of their skills and how they play basketball. Jones, Okafor, Winslow, Allen, all made a fan out of me. Congrats to Duke and Coach K for their championship run. 

Fantastic Four 2015

I can't think of one year where I was disappointed with March Madness, and this year was no different. Like always, the first two rounds are very cinematic, but now we are down to the FINAL FOUR teams. It will be an eventful final three games of the 2014-15 College Basketball season. 

#1 Kentucky Wildcats 

Road to the Final Four:

  • 2nd round - #16 Hampton 79-56 
  • 3rd round - #8 Cincinnati 64-51
  • Sweet 16 - #5 West Virginia 78-39
  • Elite 8 - #3 Notre Dame 68-66

The Wildcats are only two games away from completing their pursuit on perfection. For the first time this season, I actually believe that they will do it. The way they ended the Notre Dame game wasn't spectacular, game winning free throws by Andrew Harrison, but the block by Willie Cauley-Stien on the previous possession might have been the biggest play of the tournament. 

All season long people told me that they will finish undefeated and I said I'll believe when it happens, well I think I will have to become a believer. It's not that I don't want them to see complete the pursuit, I just think it is very difficult. The most important thing you need for to go undefeated is defense and the Wildcats are easily the best defensive team in the Final Four round. They got their first dose of a premier offense in Notre Dame, holding them to only 46% shooting. 

Kentucky's experience will also be important. This is Calipari's 4th trip to the Final Four in the last 5 years. The Harrison Twins, Cauley-Stien, and Dakari Johnson will play in their second straight Final Four, obviously looking to get that sour taste UConn left in their mouth. If they can complete this quest for 40-0, I will have to strongly consider if they are indeed the best team ever but as of now, I say no. 


#1 Wisconsin Badgers 

Road to the Final Four: 

  • 2nd round - #16 Coastal Carolina 86-72
  • 3rd round - #8 Wisconsin 72-65 
  • Sweet Sixteen - #4 North Carolina 79-82 
  • Elite 8 - #2 Arizona 85-78 

While Kentucky is the best defensive team in the Final Four, Wisconsin is the best offensive team, averaging 80 points in the tournament. Just like the Wildcats, this is the Badgers second straight trip to the Final Four, with Frank Kaminsky, Sam Dekker, Nigel Hayes, Traeveon Jackson, and Josh Gasser all returning from that Final Four team. 

Sam Dekker went bonkers against Arizona in the Elite 8, scoring 27 points, 20 of them coming in the second half. During the tournament he is averaging 21 points a game while shooting 60% from the field. He is a matchup problem for anyone, and I'm not really sure how Kentucky is going to stop him. (AP Photo) 

Sam Dekker went bonkers against Arizona in the Elite 8, scoring 27 points, 20 of them coming in the second half. During the tournament he is averaging 21 points a game while shooting 60% from the field. He is a matchup problem for anyone, and I'm not really sure how Kentucky is going to stop him. (AP Photo) 

Last year, I think the Badgers were underdogs in the Final Four round, and even though they are going up against the overall favorite, I don't think we can consider them underdogs. They have the experience, the possible Player of the Year in Kaminsky, and to me, one of the best players in the country, Sam Dekker. 

Last year the Badgers lost to UK thanks to Aaron Harrison game winning trey ball, which I'm sure they have not forgot about. Zach Aguste of Notre Dame scored 20 points against the Wildcats' BIGS which should give Kaminsky great confidence going into this game. Kaminsky best attribute for this game is that he can always bring one of those trees outside of the paint because he can shoot the ball. Stretching the floor is a must against UK, along with shooting the rock effectively. 

Against Arizona in the Elite 8, the Badgers were 12-18 from the three point line. I'm not sure if they will be able to match that again vs. Kentucky, but it's not impossible. 


#1 Duke Blue Devils 

Road to the Final Four: 

  • 2nd round - #16 Robert Morris 85-56 
  • 3rd round - #8 San Diego State 68-49
  • Sweet 16 - #5 Utah 63-57
  • Elite 8 - #2 Gonzaga 66-52 

The Blue Devils are probably the quietest team in the Final Four and what I mean by quiet is that not much have been said about them, mainly because they did everything they were supposed to do. No one really gave the Blue Devils a scare, except for maybe Utah, but I never got the feeling they were going to lose the game. 

Justice Winslow in his hometown of Houston led the Blue Devils to another Final Four appearance, Coach K's 12th. While Tyus and Jahlil are the two household freshmen, sometime people forget how talented of a freshman Justice. (Getty Images) 

Justice Winslow in his hometown of Houston led the Blue Devils to another Final Four appearance, Coach K's 12th. While Tyus and Jahlil are the two household freshmen, sometime people forget how talented of a freshman Justice. (Getty Images) 

I actually think the Blue Devils could beat the Wildcats becuase they have the big man in the middle Jahlil Okafor. Jahalil dropped 21 and 26 in the first two games of the tournament but has only scored a combined 15 points in the last two games. Along with Kaminsky, I think Okafor can handle the four trees UK has in the paint because he has a post game. For some reason people want to say Karl Anthony Towns is the better player, but I don't see it and I like Towns. When it comes to footwork and fundamentals, Okafor is by far the better player. Towns has him beat on the defensive end, but I don't see him stopping Okafor when it matters. It will be fun to watch though, if it happens. 

Coach K will have his hands full preparing his team for Michigan State but it shouldn't be too hard. I thought this was one of the better Gonzaga teams they had in recent memory and Duke held them to 52 points and 44% shooting, both tournament lows for the Zags. If its a team that could match the Wildcats on talent, Duke is the one. Tyus Jones and Quin Cook are one of the best backcourts in the country and probably second to only the Harrison Twins. One thing they can't do is sleep on Michigan State. 


#7 Michigan State Spartans 

Road to the Final Four: 

  • 2nd round - #10 Georgia 70-63
  • 3rd round - #2 Virginia 60-54 
  • Sweet 16 - #3 Oklahoma 72-66 
  • Elite 8 - #4 Louisville 76-70 OT

The Spartans remind me of how UConn went through the tournament last year. Came into the tournament with low expectations from the outside world, defeated 3 higher seeds in the three straight games, and was the 7th seed. The more they won, the more people started to realize that it's not impossible for them to be in the Final Four, similar to UConn last year. Obviously they are the underdogs but they're not your typical underdog, mainly because of Tom Izzo 

Tom Izzo always makes his mark in the month of March. In 20 seasons at Michigan State, Izzo has reached the Sweet 16 thirteen times out of 18 tournament appearances. (AP/Post-Standard, Kevin Rivoli)

Tom Izzo always makes his mark in the month of March. In 20 seasons at Michigan State, Izzo has reached the Sweet 16 thirteen times out of 18 tournament appearances. (AP/Post-Standard, Kevin Rivoli)

This will be Tom Izzo's 7th trip to the Final Four since he became head coach at Michigan State back in 1995. I don't care what seed his team is, no matter what, Izzo will make sure his team is built and ready for the tournament. I don't like how people try to hop his wagon now that his team is in the Final Four because if you been paying attention, you would know this is nothing new. I said in our bracketology article, that the Spartans are sleepers but with Izzo coaching, don't count them out. Why? Because we go through this every year. 

Travis Trice, Denzel Valentine, and Branden Dawson has become a very effective Big 3 this tournament, averaging a combined 44 points a game. Guard play is what wins in the tournament and these three guards together make it tough for any team. The one thing that I admire about this Spartan team is that they have made every team play their style of basketball, which is very physical. None of their games have been pretty nor an up and down battle. It will be interesting to see how they manage, being the smallest team in the Final Four, but it hasn't been an issue for them yet. 

Fan-I Bracketology: West Region

The West region last year was one of the weakest but this year I think it is wide open field. The most interesting thing about this region is how the committee snub the Arizona Wildcats out of a #1 seed. Wisconsin was named #1 while the Wildcats are #2. Only reason why I say they were snub is because they are geographically a better fit to be #1 for the region.

courtesy of ESPN.com

courtesy of ESPN.com

Both Wisconsin and Arizona have the same records, 31-3, and was victors in their conference tournament. To me, what gives the edge to the Wildcats is that they won the Pac-12 with 80-52 victory over Oregon, who is the #9 seed in this region. Wisconsin needed an extra overtime period to win the Big 10 title over Michigan State. 

Still though I like the Badgers, I think are one of the four best teams in the country mainly because they have majority of their players back from last year's Final Four, two of which being Frank Kaminsky and Sam Decker. Kaminsky will probably win the National Player of the Year award, and rightfully so. Sam Decker is the perfet complimentary player, along with sophomore Nigel Hayes, who scored 25 points in the Big Ten Final. 

The Badgers could have a tough 3rd round matchup if Oregon could advance past Oklahoma State. Oregon is 13-3 in their last 16 games but 2 of those losses was against Arizona, by a combined 62 points. Joseph Young though is the perfect tournament player, one that could take over a game in the backcourt. 

There are a few intriguing matchups in this region, like North Carolina-Harvard, Harvard winning their last two first round matchups (13' 68-62 vs #3 New Mexico, 14' 61-57 vs #5 Cincinnati). For some reason though, I have a feeling that North Carolina is going to catch fire in this tournament, mainly because of J.P Tokoto and Marcus Paige, who I expect to have a great tournament. 

Another intriguing matchup is VCU vs. Ohio State, two very different teams. The Rams are known for their heavy pressure in the backcourt on the defensive end, while the Buckeyes have one of the best guards in the country in Deangelo Russell. I think the Buckeyes can win this one, since this isn't one of Shaka Smart's strongest team, also Sam Thompson for the Buckeyes. 

One thing that does bother me about this bracket is the Baylor Bears are the #3 seed. This is another example of the committee thinking that the Big 12 is the best conference. Baylor finished the season with 9 losses, 7 of which coming against conference foes. Their non-conference play isn't strong either, only 3 wins against tournament team, all of which playing in mid-major conferences. Don't think the Bears are worthy of that spot. 

Sleeper 

  • BYU Cougars, 25-9 - BYU is second in the country and scoring, averaging 84 points a game and 5th in assist, and they have the 5th leading scorer in Tyler Haws who averages 22 points a game. 
  • Oregon Ducks, 25-9 - The Ducks also can score the rock, scoring 76 points a game. They too have a tournament style player in Joseph Young, who is averaging 20 a game. 
  • Georgia State, 24-9, Sun Belt Conference Champions - I actually think this team will beat the Bears because they have 3 guards that can ball, RJ Hunter, Ryan Harrow, and Kevin Ware, former Lousiville guard. Hunter and Harrow are averaging 18+. 

Players to Watch 

Potential Matchups 

  • #1 Wisconsin v. #8 Oregon, Third round - Curious to see how Wisconsin stop Young and how Oregon will matchup against Kaminsky and Decker. SHould be an entertaining game with a lot of points. 
  • #10 Ohio State v. #2 Arizona, Third Round - Two freshman standouts will be featured in this game, Russell for the Buckeyes and Stanley Robinson of the Wildcats. 
  • #1 Wisconsin v. #4 North Carolina, Sweet 16 - A good ol' Big 10-ACC challenge, plus J.P. Tokoto and Sam Decker matchup, which should be fun. 
  • #1 Wisconsin v. #2 Arizona, Elite 8 - I think their will be some resentment coming from the WIldcats being snubbed on the #1 seed.

Duke conquers Badgers

Despite the Big Ten running away with the Big Ten/ACC challenge, capturing the magic number which was 8 wins, #2 Wisconsin vs #4 Duke was the most anticipated matchup between the two conferences. The last two years both conferences have tied and the last time these two teams matched up the Badgers stormed the court as they upset Duke who was ranked #6 73-69.

The Blue Devils faced tremendous pressure considering they had to face a well coached Bo Ryan Badgers team in a hostile environment. The pressure also was high considering 3 of Dukes starting five were true freshman, a first for Duke since 1982-83 season that included college basketball analyst Jay Bilas. However, after watching the game tonight determining whether or not they are freshman is in question. Freshman's PG Tyus Jones, SF Justice Winslow, and #1 ranked player in the country C Jahlil Okafor played with great poise keeping the foot on the gas all night. Okafor broke the game in as he bodied up against Pre-season All-American, center Frank Kaminsky, but Okafor faced foul trouble early in the first half. Okafor in the second half had some pivotal points down the stretch, finishing with 13 points shooting 6-8. Winslow had a low scoring game with just 5 points but he hit a tough three that stopped the Badgers from turning the corner. Game ball without question goes to Tyus Jones who played like a super freshman scoring a team high 22 points missing just four shots against a tough senior point guard Traevon Jackson. 

Wisconsin coming into this game undefeated, and under coach Bo Ryan, have an impressive 34-12 record against Top 25 teams. Looking at the Badgers this season I have to say this is their best team I have seen in years. Wisconsin's senior star, Frank Kaminsky, came in averaging 16 points and 8 boards which he spreads the floor with his ability to shoot behind the arc. Kaminsky started the game off challenging Okafors ability to defend on the perimeter,  knocking down back-to-back treys. Frank was sidelined after taking a unintended blow to the groin but returned in the second half. Badgers point guard, Traevon Jackson, got off to a slow start in the first half but turned up in the second half shooting deadly from deep as he tried to will his team to turn the corner scoring a game high 25 points knocking down a bevy of treys. 

The Blue Devils dribble drive penetration was a huge advantage implemented from guards Tyus Jones and Quinn Cook. The backcourt combined for 35 points shooting well over 60%. The bench play of guard Rasheed Sulaimon was great help as he scored 14 points going 5-8. The Blue Devils were lights out all night shooting 65% answering all over the floor whether it be from the trey, tough mid-ranges, or inside work. Even though the Blue Devils were the smaller team their ability to defend the bigger Badgers team was impressive as they held them to 40% from the field to win 80-70.

Wisconsin despite losing I think will still be a Final Four team after watching them play against a Top 5 Duke team. Kaminsky and Jackson answered all night combining for 42 of their 70 points shooting 50%. The Badgers shooting threat from point to center wasn't effective as usual shooting a season low 40%. Sophomore Nigel Hayes hurt the Badgers with his season low 4 points battling foul trouble the whole night. 

The Badgers fall to 7-1 as the Blue Devils move to 8-0 and Coach K receives win #991. Congrats to the Blue Devils and their tough road win, I think with Okafors paint presence and great shooting ability Duke is a championship contender. I wouldn't be surprised if these two teams meet again come March.

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