We've arrived at the final weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Four teams will square off in Indianapolis on Saturday evening with the winners earning a spot in the title game on Monday night.
In the Final Four opener, the Michigan State Spartans take on the Duke Blue Devils. It's odd to call a Tom Izzo coached team a Cinderella story, but the 7-seeded Spartans have been just that. After knocking off Georgia in the second round, Michigan State upset a Virginia team that spent much of the year looking like a national title contender. The Spartans knocked out Oklahoma in the Sweet Sixteen before holding off Louisville in overtime in the Elite Eight. Michigan State has evolved into a different team from when they lost to Duke early in the season. Izzo's squad has knocked down 38.9 percent of their 3-point attempts in the NCAAs after shooting just 5-for-20 against the Blue Devils in the Champions Classic. Seniors Travis Trice and Branden Dawson along with junior Denzel Valentine will look to power Sparty into the title game on Saturday evening.
Meanwhile, the Blue Devils will be hoping that freshman phenom Jahlil Okafor breaks out of his second weekend slump. After scoring 47 points during the tournament's first weekend, Okafor mustered just 15 points on 7-for-16 shooting against Utah and Gonzaga. The good news for Duke is that Okafor dominated the Spartans in the first go around, scoring 17 points on 8-for-10 shooting. Michigan State's front line simply lacks the talent to handle the projected top five pick. Okafor is a big reason the Blue Devils are favored by five points according to Ken Pomeroy's FanMatch.
The second Final Four contest is a rematch from last season as the Wisconsin Badgers and the Kentucky Wildcats will do battle. Both teams have evolved substantially. As a freshman, Wisconsin's Nigel Hayes played just seven minutes against the Wildcats, but this year he has molded himself into an efficient scoring threat. Hayes' evolution has contributed to the Badgers' incredibly efficient offense. Through ball movement, 3-point shooting, and slashing, Wisconsin has created one of the most impressive offenses in recent history. Senior Frank Kaminsky is a 7-footer with 3-point range and his crafty post game will present a challenge to either Willie Cauley-Stein or Karl-Anthony Towns. Junior Sam Dekker has also played to his potential during the NCAA Tournament. Dekker is averaging nearly 22 points per game during the NCAAs, and plays a position where the Wildcats lack a true small forward.
Mismatches, though, haven't slowed down the undefeated Wildcats. Kentucky's defense is perhaps the best in college basketball history. They use length at every position to challenge opponents' shots both inside the paint and around the 3-point arc. Opponents are making just 38.8 percent of their 2s and 26.7 percent of their 3s against Kentucky. Cauley-Stein is the most versatile defender in college basketball, and if you don't believe me, just run back the Wildcats' final possession against Notre Dame when Cauley-Stein chased Jerian Grant end-to-end. Towns is also a defensive monster, but his offensive performance in the NCAA Tournament has moved him to the top of most mock drafts. Towns was nearly unstoppable against the Irish, scoring 25 points on 10-for-13 shooting. Pomeroy's FanMatch favors the Wildcats by three.
Here's the full schedule for today's games:
If you want to check out how we got here, you can always check out the full bracket over here.