True college basketball fans should be thrilled by this Final Four because there isn't a scenario that spits out a boring championship game. We could see a rematch of one of the regular season's best games (Duke vs. Wisconsin) or a reprise of the exciting Big Ten championship game (Wisconsin vs. Michigan State). Kentucky versus Duke would feature scores of future NBA players, let alone two traditionally elite programs. And who wouldn't like to see underdog Michigan State take a crack at ending Kentucky's perfect season?
NO. 1 KENTUCKY VS. NO. 1 WISCONSIN
Remember how last year's Final Four matchup between these two teams ended? With Aaron Harrison ripping away Bo Ryan's first national championship appearance with a three-pointer with 5.7 seconds left. Yes, that was quite possibly the best game of last year's tournament. The fact that Wisconsin returns almost every player from that team and that Kentucky is undefeated made this a highly anticipated matchup when the bracket was released.
Then there's this: Since advanced stats site KenPom.com began tracking adjusted efficiency ratings in 2002, only John Calipari's 2008-09 Memphis team has allowed fewer points per 100 possessions (85.1) than Kentucky's 85.6 and no team has scored more than Wisconsin's 127.5.
NO. 1 DUKE VS. NO. 7 MICHIGAN STATE
elieve it or not, these programs have met only three times in the NCAA Tournament since Tom Izzo became Michigan State's coach in 1995. The Blue Devils, led by Elton Brand, beat the Spartans in the 1999 Final Four, and that's the last time Mike Krzyzewski battled Izzo with a national championship bid on the line. That time, though, both teams were seeded No. 1 in their regions and were supposed to reach the Final Four.
These Spartans don't have a projected first-round pick, according to nbadraft.net and DraftExpress.com, while Duke has two potential lottery selections. In December, Michigan State lost to Texas Southern, and on Feb. 7, the Spartans were 15-8. Now they're 27-11 and one win from Izzo's third championship appearance. Duke's the favorite, but Michigan State is rolling and has the offensive firepower to stay close.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
FRANK KAMINSKY, WISCONSIN: The only unanimous AP All-American, Kaminsky does everything for Wisconsin. He's a versatile 7-footer who leads the Badgers with 18.7 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.5 blocks and 0.9 steals per game and shoots 41.5 percent from deep.
WILLIE CAULEY-STEIN, KENTUCKY: Karl-Anthony Towns might be the No. 1 NBA draft pick in June, but Cauley-Stein could be the difference against Wisconsin. Kaminsky hasn't faced anyone like Cauley-Stein, an athletic 7-footer who averages 1.7 blocks per game and defends wings and bigs alike. Remember, it was Cauley-Stein who ran stride for stride with Jerian Grant before altering Notre Dame's last-second prayer in the Elite Eight.
JUSTISE WINSLOW, DUKE: By now, you've probably heard a lot about Jahlil Okafor, who, by the way, scored only 15 points in the tournament's second weekend. Winslow has been the best player on Duke's run to Indianapolis. What can't the 6-6 wing do? In four NCAA Tournament games, Winslow has averages of 14.0 points, 9.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.8 blocks and 1.5 steals.
TRAVIS TRICE, MICHIGAN STATE: The East Regional's most outstanding player, Trice is Michigan State's point guard and leading scorer (15.3 ppg). Trice has been the Spartans' most consistent player during the surprise run to the Final Four.
WHAT'S AT STAKE
KENTUCKY: No team has gone undefeated through the national championship since Bob Knight's 1975-76 Indiana Hoosiers, who went 32-0. No team has ever gone 40-0, a mark the Wildcats would reach if they win the title.
WISCONSIN: The Badgers haven't won a NCAA Tournament since 1941. This is their second Final Four appearance under Bo Ryan.
DUKE: Mike Krzyzewski has won four national championships. One more would break his tie with Adolph Rupp, leaving him alone in second place behind John Wooden's 10.
MICHIGAN STATE: This is the seventh Final Four for Tom Izzo, who led the Spartans to the 2000 national title. Izzo is 2-4 in the national semifinals. He's 43-12 in rounds leading up to the Final Four.