Final Four Bracket Picks with Expert March Madness Predictions
by Trevor Whenham - 3/30/2015
And then there were four. After a weekend of great basketball action — especially on Saturday — we now know which four teams are heading to Indianapolis for a chance at immortality. My original bracket is still in decent shape — like everyone in the world, I still have Kentucky alive. Throughout the tournament, though, we have been starting the brackets over again after each round. This is our last chance to do so. Therefore, without further ado here are my Final Four bracket picks:
Kentucky vs. Wisconsin: Early betting action has been heavily tilted towards the underdog Badgers. It makes sense if you put yourself into the minds of public bettors. Within a few hours they watched Wisconsin overpower a very good Arizona team in the second half of their game, and then they watched Kentucky survive by the narrowest of margins against Notre Dame. The public doesn’t take a long-term view when the short-term view differs. They won’t look at questions that matter: How has Kentucky responded to close calls in the past? Why did they struggle against Notre Dame as they did? How have they responded in the past with a week of preparation time? How do they match up against Wisconsin? They’ll also look at a Kentucky team that was uncharacteristically underwhelming offensively for much of the game and ignore the one that didn’t miss a shot for the last 12 minutes of the game.
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When you ask all of those questions, there are a few things that emerge as I see it. This team has, with one exception, bounced back strong from weaker games — and that one exception was back in early January and was with only three day’s rest. I expect the team to come back strong from that scare, and John Calipari is going to be sure to push them hard to make sure they do. Instead of one day of preparation, they will have a full week here, so their game-planning and preparation will be better than it was in this last game, too. In short, the Kentucky team we saw for the first 28 minutes or so is not the one we are likely to see this time around.
I don’t want to sound like I am disrespected or disregarding the Badgers. I like this team a lot. There are reasons for concern, though. In the second half when they were dominant against Arizona they scored with an efficiency that is totally unsustainable — and very unlikely to occur against a team as big and disciplined as Kentucky. Sam Dekker was superhuman, and because Kaleb Tarczewski was terrible with his footwork Frank Kaminsky had his way all day. Kentucky has the tools to better contain those two and the time to figure out how to. Last year when these teams met in the Final Four, Kaminsky had a rough night, and Dekker was solid but nothing like he has been the last two games — and that was against a Kentucky team not nearly as good as this one.
This should be a good, tough game. I just don’t see enough from Wisconsin to go away from my strong feeling from the start of the tournament — that Kentucky isn’t done yet.
Michigan State vs. Duke: I’m bitter at Duke. I really liked Gonzaga this year and thought they were going deep. The Blue Devils, in the end, made that belief look a little ridiculous. I hate that.
Duke is good. Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow are very, very good. Neither looks even remotely like a freshman. They have not been hugely challenged to this point in the tournament, and they look every part of what they are — a No. 1 seed with championship aspirations.
When it comes to the Spartans, there is one question to ponder above all others — at least in the short term. Did Louisville shoot an abysmal 6-for-32 after the half after shooting the lights out in the first half because the moment got too big for them or because of what Michigan State did? Michigan State unquestionably tightened up their defense a lot, but I give Louisville at least as much blame for the loss.
The Spartans have made an impressive run — that goes without saying when a No. 7 team makes it this far. They are taking a massive step up in class here, though. Virginia, Oklahoma and Louisville are all good teams, but all had flaws more glaring than what they face now. I’m not suggesting that they are outclassed and can’t win. The margin of victory hasn’t been overwhelming in their games so far, though, and this matchup challenges them in whole new ways. I am cautiously skeptical about their ability to up their game enough to keep the winning streak going. They haven’t seen a presence like the stars of Duke in this tournament, and I don’t have faith in their ability to handle it when they do. Duke will win this one and set up a championship game that will shatter so many viewing records it’s silly.
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