After an incredible first four rounds of the 2015 NCAA tournament, a loaded final four awaits. Four legendary coaches. Perfection at stake. A seven seed. You can’t ask for much more. So as a casual fan, what do you root for at this point? To help you decide, G&G created a flow chart, previewed each of the four potential championship games, and broke down what each of the 8 championship outcomes would mean.
Championship Game Previews:
Wisconsin versus Michigan State (MSU): This would signify one of the greatest year in Big 10 history. After Ohio State dominated Alabama and Oregon on its way to the Football championship, the conference would be guaranteed the basketball crown. This game would also represent two “Cinderelllas;” Wisconsin would have to upset undefeated Kentucky and try to win its first national crown since 1941, while MSU’s championship birth would mark a second consecutive year with a seven seed in the NCAA championship.
Duke versus Kentucky: A battle of the titans. Legendary coaches try to further cement their hall of fame legacies. Young rosters loaded with NBA talent put on a show that could be an NBA lottery day preview. The matchup of Jahlil Okafor versus Willie Caullie Stein (both 1st team all-americans) and/or Karl-Anthony Towns has legendary potential. Can Coach K spoil another perfect season in the NCAA championship?
Wisconsin versus Duke: It isn’t tough to guess who people will be rooting for in this one. A school that has not won it all since 1941 paired against the most hated program in college basketball. It would be a doozy too; a match-up of 1st team All-Americans Frank Kaminsky and Jahlil Okafor would be a joy to watch.
MSU versus Kentucky: David versus Goliath. A Michigan State team that at times this season looked average at best would now have a chance to knock off another titan and end Kentucky’s run at perfection. For the second straight year, Kentucky would face a seven seed in the championship. Last year’s didn’t end well, but Kentucky is no eight seed this time around.
Kentucky beats Duke: Kentucky achieves perfection, knocking off back to back one seeds. In an epic matchup of coaches, big men, and young players, Calipari and his unselfish roster (whose average height is 6’7) come through. Calipari’s ability to recruit players willing to play fewer minutes for the chance at a title revolutionizes the recruiting process. Fans rejoice as Duke comes up short in both the ACC and NCAA tourneys.
Kentucky beats MSU: The clock strikes midnight on Cinderella, and the Wildcats celebrate the first perfect season since the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers. The debate of “one and done” rosters versus senior leadership heats up as Calipari’s roster of 11 Freshmen and Sophomores defeats Izzo’s squad of 10 Juniors and Seniors.
Wisconsin beats Duke: For the second straight game, Bo Ryan and Frank Kaminsky’s team get their shot at the big, bad, historic champion. Kaminsky shows that there is something to be said for playing all four years in college, and Bo Ryan adds a Division I title to his four Division III championships. Another great year for Duke ends without any hardware, not even for their coach, who has won two national championships, eight ACC crowns and appeared in four final fours since his last ACC coach of the year award in 1999-2000.
Wisconsin beats MSU: Wisconsin completes its two year storybook run with a fairy tale ending, proving itself yet again as the best team in the best conference. After much talk about the Big 12, ACC and Kentucky being the best in the country, the all Big 10 matchup comes to an end with Wisconsin, the team dubbed the conference favorite from day one, on top. Bo Ryan officially puts his name in the Hall of Fame discussion. The magical run for Izzo’s team comes up just short, but MSU’s dominance remains unquestioned; 18 straight tournament births, including seven final fours and what would be a 3rd title game appearance, is nothing to sneeze at.
Duke beats Kentucky: Coach K strikes again, winning his 5th NCAA title, the second over an undefeated opponent. In a matchup of hated NCAA programs, the more likable coach comes out on top. Even Duke haters will enjoy watching Calipari, a man who has had two final four trips vacated for violations, fail epically close of perfection, and fall flat in the NCAA championship in consecutive years.
Duke beats Wisconsin: This is probably the worst case scenario for Duke haters. Not only does Duke cut down the nets, but does so at the expense of Wisconsin, the one school left who hasn’t won the title in recent memory. But it would be somewhat poetic for Coach K to win his 5th NCAA title the year he broke 1,000 wins. Two incredible seasons of Wisconsin basketball will leave Badger fans with many happy memories, but the pain of coming three wins shy of two NCAA titles will last a lifetime .
MSU beats Kentucky: Midnight never strikes for Cinderella. Izzo defeats Pitino, Coach K and Calipari in three straight games, capturing his second NCAA title at the expense of some of the best coaches in the history of college basketball. Kentucky heads home hauntingly close of perfection, and the “one and done” fad in college basketball will continue to be doubted, as for a second straight year, Caliapri’s team comes up short in the biggest game of the year.
MSU beats Wisconsin: Wisconsin owned the Big 10 all year, but they always say its tough to beat a team three times. Michigan State proves the old adage, and for a second straight year the 7 seed claims NCAA glory. Izzo rides his hot team and jumps to the top of many people’s “best college coach” list, while Bo Ryan and Frank Kaminsky’s legacies will unfairly feel a bit hollow.
By Aaron Gillette