aNewDomain — Finally, we have four.
After almost five months of the men’s college basketball season, the NCAA Tournament reaches its exciting conclusion this weekend in Indianapolis. This foursome is a display of college basketball royalty: Duke, Kentucky, Michigan State and Wisconsin.
Kentucky, as usual, is the odds-on favorite to be cutting the nets on Monday night. Since that appears to be a given, maybe it would be best to remember how these teams arrived at this point and throw out a few stats and interesting facts that you can drop on friends during your tournament party.
Here’s everything worth knowing now that we have four on the floor at the Final Four 2015.
Michigan State (27-11) vs. Duke (33-4)
Time: 6:09 p.m ET
Last meeting: Duke won 81-71 in Indianapolis on Nov. 18
Betting line: Duke by 5
The Michigan State Spartans’ NCAA Tournament results:
Def. Georgia 70-63
Def. Virginia 60-54
Def. Oklahoma 62-58
Def. Louisville 76-70 (OT)
And here’s their starting five:
F: Gavin Schilling (Soph., 6-foot-9)
F: Branden Dawson (Sr., 6-foot-6)
G: Travis Trice (Sr., 6-foot)
G: Tum Tum Naim, Jr. (Fr., 5-foot-10)
G: Denzel Valentine (Jr., 6-foot-5)
Michigan State is making its 18th straight NCAA Tournament appearance. This is the Spartans’ ninth trip to the Final Four, including seven under Coach Tom Izzo, who has 495 wins in 20 seasons. Izzo ranks fifth among active coaches for the best NCAA Tournament winning percentage at .742 (46-16).
MSU is the fourth team (North Carolina, UCLA and Duke) to appear in seven Final Fours in any 17-year span, and just the third (North Carolina and Duke) since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985. It’s well worth noting that co-captain Travis Trice has scored at least 20 points in 11 games this season. Trice has played 154 of a possible 165 minutes in the tournament.
Duke Blue Devils’ NCAA Tournament results
Def. Robert Morris 85-56
Def. San Diego State 68-49
Def. Utah 63-57
Def. Gonzaga 66-52
C: Jahlil Okafor (Fr., 6-foot-11)
F: Justise Winslow (Sr., 6-foot-2)
F: Tyus Jones (Fr., 6-foot-1)
G: Quinn Cook (Sr., 6-foot-2)
G: Matt Jones (Soph., 6-foot-5)
Mike Krzyzewski is the winningest coach in the history of Division I basketball with a 1,016-310 (.766) record in 40 seasons, including 943-251 (.790) in 35 seasons at Duke.
Did you know Krzyzewski is one of only three coaches in NCAA history to win at least four national championships (1991, 1992, 2001, 2010)? It’s true. His 12 Final Four appearances are tied for the most all-time wins.
Speaking of records, Duke freshman Jahlil Okafor is first in the nation in total field goals made (267) and second in field goal percentage (.668). Duke is the only team in the tournament with three freshmen averaging double figures in scoring: Okafor (17.5 ppg.), Justise Winslow (12.5 ppg.) and Tyus Jones (11.6 ppg.).
This weekend, Duke will be playing its 291st consecutive game as a ranked team in the AP Poll. The Blue Devils are 241-49 (.831) in that span. Now, on to Kentucky vs. Wisconsin …
Kentucky (38-0) vs. Wisconsin (35-3)
Time: 8:49 p.m.
Last meeting: Kentucky won 74-73 in last season’s national semifinals
Betting line: Kentucky by 5
Wildcats’ NCAA Tournament results:
Def. Hampton 79-56
Def. Cincinnati 64-51
Def. West Virginia 78-39
Def. Notre Dame 68-66
Here are the Kentucky starters:
F: Willie Cauley-Stein (Jr., 7-foot)
F: Trey Lyles (Fr., 6-foot-10)
F: Karl Anthony-Towns (Fr., 6-foot-11)
G: Aaron Harrison (Soph., 6-foot-6)
G: Andrew Harrison (Soph., 6-foot-6)
The Wildcats are making their 17th Final Four appearance and are looking for their ninth national title. Kentucky’s 38 victories this season tie a school and NCAA record. Kentucky went 11-0 against teams that made this year’s NCAA Tournament.
The Wildcats defeated Buffalo, Kansas, Providence, Texas, Louisville, Mississippi, Georgia, LSU and Arkansas this time around. This weekend, Coach John Calipari will be making his sixth Final Four appearance.
Calipari’s Kentucky team won the 2012 national title.
Just so you know: Junior forward Willie Cauley-Stein was named the Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year and is a finalist for the Naismith Trophy. And the Wildcats lead the nation in scoring margin (+20.8) and field goal defense (.351).
Wisconsin Badgers’ NCAA Tournament results:
Def. Coastal Carolina 86-72
Def. Oregon 72-65
Def. North Carolina 79-72
Def. Arizona 85-78
F: Nigel Hayes (Soph., 6-foot-8)
F: Sam Dekker (Jr., 6-foot-9)
F: Frank Kaminsky (Sr., 7-foot)
G: Josh Gasser (Sr., 6-foot-4)
G: Bronson Koenig (Soph., 6-foot-4)
This marks Wisconsin’s fourth Final Four appearance (1941, 2000, 2014, 2015). The Badgers have reached the NCAA Tournament in all of Coach Bo Ryan’s 14 years. The Badgers have already set a school single-season record for wins in a season with 35. Wisconsin has played in 17 consecutive NCAA Tournaments, the fourth-longest active streak in the country and tied for the sixth-longest in NCAA history. Senior forward Frank Kaminsky, the Big Ten Player of the Year and first-team All-American, is averaging a team-best 18.7 points per game. The Naismith Trophy finalist scored 29 in the West Regional Final against Arizona and is averaging a team-best 22.8 ppg. in four games during the NCAA Tournament.
If you need to get your basketball fix between the semifinals on Saturday and the title game on Monday, there’s always the Women’s Final Four on Sunday. Notre Dame (35-2) plays South Carolina (34-2) at 6:30 p.m. and Connecticut (36-1) takes on Maryland (34-2) at 9 p.m. Both games are on ESPN with the title matchup coming Tuesday night at 8:30.
Yes, the basketballs will be bouncing well into next week. Enjoy!
For aNewDomain, I’m Rodney Campbell.
Photo of John Calipari: Getty Images. All rights reserved