We’re down to the Final Four of the NCAA Basketball Tournament. After two weekends of close games, buzzer-beaters and a few dramatic upsets, four teams are left to determine a champion.
There are plenty of storylines for each squad as Kentucky, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Duke head to Indianapolis for the Final Four. Duke and Michigan State face off first Saturday night, then we get Kentucky against Wisconsin for a night cap. The winners meet Monday night for the national championship.
So which team will be celebrating when it’s all over? Which squads will go home wondering what might have been? Here’s a look at why each team left could win a national title, and why they’ll go home devastating, falling short of college basketball’s ultimate goal.
Why Wisconsin Will Win
It’s a rematch of last year’s national semifinal as the Badgers face the Wildcats. Kentucky escaped with a one-point victory last year. Wisconsin’s only losses this year are to Duke at home, at Rutgers with players hurt and at Maryland. Center Frank Kaminsky will be in the NBA next year, and Sam Dekker will be drafted if he foregoes his senior season. The team is talking about “unfinished business” this year and the Badgers are as confident as anyone that they can beat Kentucky. That, and Bo Ryan gets the most out of his squad seemingly every year.
Why Wisconsin Won’t Win
The Badgers have to beat the best team in the country just to get to the national title game, then probably have to beat Duke, a team they’ve already lost to this season. Wisconsin isn’t favored to beat Kentucky, and it probably wouldn’t be favored against Duke. The match-ups don’t favor them enough and the other teams have enough athletes to send them home disappointed.
Why Kentucky Will Win
Kentucky is 38-0 heading to the Final Four, and might have gotten its best test in beating Notre Dame 68-66 in the Elite 8. The Wildcats have as many as eight players who could be in the NBA next year or will be pursuing professional careers in some capacity. They’re as unselfish as they are talented. Kentucky would be the first team to go undefeated since Indiana did in 1975-76. The Wildcats have had an answer for every test, and they seem ready to do what it takes to win it all.
Why Kentucky Won’t Win
There’s an unbelievable amount of pressure on a team to finish a perfect season when it gets to the Final Four. The Wildcats were on the verge of an NCAA title last year before losing to UConn in the championship game. They’re a very talented squad, but have shown flaws. It’s not impossible for them to lose if they have an off shooting night and their opponent is on fire, or if they get in foul trouble.
Why Duke Will Win
Duke features one of the best point guards in the country in Apple Valley’s own Tyus Jones. His buddy Jahlil Okafor is one of the top players in the country and could be the No. 1 pick in the next NBA Draft. But Justise Winslow has been the guy making a lot of the clutch shots in the NCAA Tournament. If the Blue Devils are hitting on all cylinders at the Final Four, they’re as tough to beat as anyone, especially with legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski. They’ll win the title if they can hit shots from the perimeter and get a big performance from Okafor.
Why Duke Won’t Win
If the Blue Devils find a way to beat Michigan State, beating Wisconsin or Kentucky would be no easy task for Duke. Kentucky is far and away the deepest and most talented team at the Final Four, and after Duke’s big three of Jones, Okafor and Winslow, there’s not a lot more depth. While facing Kentucky for the title would be a great game, it’s not the match-up Duke wants.
Why Michigan State Will Win
If we’ve learned anything in this tournament, it’s to not doubt Tom Izzo. He’s done an incredible job with a Michigan State squad that lacks the star talent and depth that the other teams at the Final Four have. But he gets the most out of them with hustle and effort. Last year’s national champion, Connecticut, was a No. 7 seed, just like the Spartans this year. They seem to be a team of destiny, so they can’t be counted out until they lose.
Why Michigan State Won’t Win
It’s a surprise the Spartans have gotten this far in the tournament, but their run will end against Duke on Saturday. As great a coach as Tom Izzo is, there simply isn’t enough talent on the roster to beat Duke or Kentucky, and the Spartans lost to Wisconsin in the Big Ten Tournament title game. Hustle and hard work can only go so far, at some point skill and talent trumps. They have to play perfect basketball and get an off-night from their opponents to have a chance. At the Final Four, that’s not going to happen.
Kentucky and Duke are expected to meet for the national title Monday night by most college basketball experts. Regardless, both games at the Final Four Saturday night should be entertaining and come down to the wire. All we can ask for are close games and fun basketball.