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Lessons From a Rematch?

April 6, 2015

I’ve heard more than one pundit say in the lead-up to tonight’s NCAA® Division I Men’s Basketball Championship Game between Duke and Wisconsin in Indianapolis to ignore the results of their December 3 battle in Madison, WI, won by Duke 80-70 in what was then and is not the most impressive win of the season by any team.  I’m not going to suggest history will repeat itself tonight – in fact, based on how each team has played in the tournament, I give the slight edge to Wisconsin, as does the betting public apparently, favoring Wisconsin by one (1) point 15 minutes before game time – but there are some lessons to be learned from what happened four months ago.

1.) Sam Dekker was a Non-Factor In the First Game – Having watched him build what may become a NCAA Final Four MOP résumé already, I have a hard time believing that he will only go 2-5 for five (5) points and four (4) rebounds in the rematch.  He is Wisconsin’s most important player tonight, and if he can continue his shooting streak from outside – 7/9 (.778) from 3 the last two games, each one more clutch than the prior – I’m not sure Duke has an answer.

2.) Duke Shot 65% From The Field in Madison – To be exact, 30-46 for .652 FG%.  I don’t see that happening again, but for Duke to win I would expect them to be north of 50% tonight. And even then, as Arizona found out in the Elite Eight, that might not be enough.

3.) Tyus Jones Took Over in Crunch Time Last Time – I remember watching that game on TV and thinking this was Tyus Jones’ coming out party that night, scoring 6 of Duke’s last 15 and 22 overall for the night with six (6) rebounds and four (4) assists as he was the best player on the floor that game and was the main reason Wisconsin never got closer than 5 points over the last four minutes. Another good game from him will go a long way for the Blue Devils.

4.) Jahlil Okafor and Frank Kaminsky Battled to a Standstill – The two best players this season in all of college basketball both played well last December, Okafor going for 13p/6r while spending part of the game in foul trouble, while Kaminsky had 17p/9r in eight more minutes (35 to Okafor’s 27) of game time. If Frank The Tank can get Okafor in foul trouble again tonight, that has to favor the Badgers more than it did in Madison.

5.) Traveon Jackson Was and Is The X-Factor – Jackson single-handedly kept Wisconsin in the game, going for 25 points and making all eight (8) of his Free Throws.  Since then he missed several weeks with a foot injury, but has returned off the bench in the NCAAs in a slightly different role during the Tournament to provide some toughness, poise and rest for the now starter at point guard Bronson Koenig. I doubt he’s the same influence on this game, and that might not bode well for Wisconsin, but I do think he has to come in and be a defensive presence on the perimeter against Jones and Quinn Cook.

So who wins this battle of two of the top three most efficient offenses in College Basketball?  Does Coach K get his 5th National Title?  Or does Bo Ryan get his 5th (the prior 4 at Division III Wisconsin-Platteville)? I think the Badgers win Bo Ryan’s 1st Division I Title, by the same margin of their last two games, seven (7) points in what should be a 40-minute, up and down affair.

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From → Basketball, Sports

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