NCAA Tournament Picks: Can Duke Clinch the National Title Against Wisconsin?

Matthew Jordan

Tuesday, April 7, 2015 2:26 PM GMT

Tuesday, Apr. 7, 2015 2:26 PM GMT

It's two No. 1 seeds in Duke and Wisconsin for the NCAA championship on Monday night yet it's anything but a chalk final because everyone thought Kentucky would be in it. The Badgers are 1-point favorites on BetOnline NCAA basketball odds.

On Wisconsin!
So can Wisconsin (36-3) finally get a little respect now? All the Badgers did was win the Big Ten regular-season and tournament titles yet you get the feeling they might be a bit overlooked for two reasons. One is that there's not a McDonald's high school All-American on the roster, although senior Frank Kaminsky is the National Player of the Year. The other? Sad but true: Wisconsin is too white!

UW saved the sportsbooks a ton of money by upsetting unbeaten Kentucky on Saturday night, 71-64 behind Kaminsky's 20 points and 11 rebounds. Would Kentucky beat Wisconsin in a best-of-7 series? Probably, but the NCAA Tournament is all about one-and-done. UW shot 47.9 percent against UK, which might not sound great but it's 13 percent higher than what Kentucky allowed on the season. What shocked everyone was that the Badgers outrebounded Kentucky, which has more size than anyone.

I don't have proof of this, but might Wisconsin be the first team to win a national title despite losing to Rutgers in the regular season? Indeed UW did on Jan. 11, although Kaminsky was out that game. It's the first national title game for Wisconsin since winning the school's only championship in 1941.

 

Coach K Goes For No. 5
Duke (34-4) was a No. 1 seed despite not winning either the ACC regular-season or tournament titles but there's no surprise the Blue Devils are here. They have eight McDonald's All-Americans on the roster, led by the guy who might be the No. 1 overall pick in this summer's draft in freshman center Jahlil Okafor (his one flaw is free-throw shooting so keep an eye on that). And one guy's stock who has skyrocketed is another freshman, Justise Winslow. He's a lock lottery pick as well presuming he declares and is shooting an obscene 58.3 percent from 3-point range in the tournament. The Blue Devils had no troubles in beating another Big Ten team, Michigan State, 81-61 in the Final Four. Winslow led the team with 19 points and nine rebounds.

That improved Coach Mike Krzyzewski to 9-3 in Final Four games. He goes for his fifth national title in this one. The Blue Devils really haven't been challenged much in this tournament, winning by an average of 17.6 points per game and all but one game by double digits, which is something you should keep in mind when looking at the NCAA Tournament odds. MSU was the first team in this tournament to top 60 points against Duke, which isn't thought of as a good defensive team (but stellar on offense). Duke has limited its five NCAA Tournament opponents to 55.0 points per game on 37.4 percent (108-of-289) shooting from the field.

One thing that bodes well for Duke: It is 10-2 against ranked opponents this season (Wisconsin was No. 3 in the last poll before the tournament and Duke No. 4) and 5-1 against clubs in the Top 10.

Find more NCAA Tournament Picks for Wisconsin vs. Duke

First Meeting
I don't take a ton from it, but these teams did meet on Dec. 3 in Madison in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and No. 4 Duke beat No. 2 Wisconsin 80-70. Freshman guard Tyus Jones, another future first-round pick in the NBA Draft, led the way with 22 points, six rebounds and four assists for Duke. Okafor had 13 points and six rebounds as Duke shot 65.2 percent from the field; it's the most points UW has allowed all season. Duke's Rasheed Sulaimon had 14 points and is no longer a part of the team. Traevon Jackson led Wisconsin with 25 points while Kaminsky had 17 points and nine rebounds. Wisconsin shot only 40.7 percent. Jackson was the team's starting point guard then. He's not any more after missing 19 games because of injury. Bronson Koenig now starts.

It’s the first championship game rematch of a regular-season meeting since Kentucky beat Kansas in 2012. The past three times regular-season opponents met for the national title, the team that won the first meeting won the rematch as well.

NCAAB Free Picks: The past five national championship matchups between the ACC and Big Ten have ended with the ACC team cutting down the nets. That continues Monday. Duke also seems to like Indianapolis, winning two of its titles there, so back them with your NCAA Tournament picks.  

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