NCAA Tournament Predictions: Final Four and National Title Game

Over the last two days, we’ve gone through each of the four regions of the 2015 NCAA Tournament. Our NCAA Tournament Predictions are guaranteed to win you your work pool, but to complete the bracket, you’ll need to fill in the Final Four and National Title Game sections. Let’s finish this out:

Final Four:

1 Kentucky vs. 1 Wisconsin

It’s not a stretch to say that the Badgers and the Wildcats are this year’s best two teams. The only thing that could make this matchup better is if it were the National Championship Game. Kentucky is more talented than any team in the country, but Frank Kaminsky is the best player in the NCAA Tournament. It’d be such a show to see what Frank the Tank could do against Willie Cauley-Stein and Karl Anthony-Towns down low, but it’s hard to imagine Kaminsky not having some sort of success. The backcourt matchup would be just as enticing. Traevon Jackson will be back, and combined with Sam Dekker, it’d be interesting to see what guard combo John Calipari would go with. For a game that boasts two of the best defensive teams in America, there’d certainly be some points scored.

Last year, these two teams met on the same stage, and a late comeback pushed Kentucky to the title game. This year, it’ll be the opposite. Kentucky’s roster of McDonald’s All American reinforcements has rolled all year, but it hasn’t had to face such a rare blend of experience, talent, cohesiveness, and high basketball IQ like the Wisconsin Badgers possess. When all is said and done, it’ll be Bo Ryan’s team avenging the Final Four loss from a season ago and reaching the National Title Game.

2 Virginia vs. 3 Iowa State

Offense against defense has been a theme all tournament, and this game would be the ultimate match between the two sides. Virginia is the best defensive team in the country, and after watching Iowa State in the last few weeks, it’d be hard to put anybody in front of them in an offensive power rankings list. Both teams are well coached by men with incredibly calm demeanors, which is ideal for this time of year. Both teams are experienced. Both teams present matchup problems for its opponent, including arguably the greatest matchup problem in this game: how the Cavaliers can defend Georges Niang. Teams used to slow Iowa State’s offense by guarding the perimeter to prevent a three-point barrage, but Niang’s ability to drive to the basket and score inside has made that plan worthless. The emergence of Jameel McKay is huge as well, as the Cyclones now have two legitimate inside scoring threats to go along with an entire roster of three-point shooters.

Iowa State definitely presents a threat to Virginia, but ultimately, I’m going with the Cavaliers to advance to the National Championship Game. I simply believe that their defense is just on a different level at this point. They must protect the basketball, as Iowa State doesn’t turn it over much themselves. Justin Anderson won’t continue to score zero points per game, and when he gets going, Virginia will return to the dominating team that began the year 19-0. People seem to be sleeping on a Virginia team that went 29-3 in the regular season and finished 1st nationally in points allowed. It’s hard to pick against.

 

National Championship Game:

1 Wisconsin vs. 2 Virginia

The college basketball season concludes with the ultimate matchup – two unique but totally different squads.

First of all, Virginia’s defense. We’ve been talking about it for the entire article. However, Frank Kaminsky presents a different challenge for the Cavs, and there won’t be any stopping him here. Kaminsky is one of the few bigs that has the ability to matchup with Anthony Gill by stepping out and knocking down threes, and the rare blend of length and athleticism of the Badgers will put the Cavaliers in an early hole. Wisconsin doesn’t really have a weakness as a team, but if it’s hitting threes as well as it’s capable of, the Badgers are unstoppable.

Virginia will definitely make a run, most likely thanks to some big shots by Justin Anderon. Malcolm Brogdon is Virginia’s top scorer, averaging 14 points per game and shooting a nifty 35% from three. Point guard London Perrantes averages nearly five assists and fewer than two turnovers per contest, so he’ll make the plays he has all season to help Virginia climb back into the game. It’s been said all year that trailing by 10 to the Cavaliers is like trailing by 30 to other teams, so Wisconsin has to be careful not to fall behind Tony Bennett’s defensive juggernaut. This is a game that boasts the top two contenders for National Coach of the Year (after John Calipari), and it has the opportunity to be one of the greatest NCAA Finals in recent memory.

Frank Kaminsky will hit the game-winning layup with less than 30 seconds remaining, lifting the Badgers to a National Championship. Confetti will fly as Bo Ryan wins his fifth National Championship (first at the Division I level), and Wisconsin will be crowned kings of college basketball for the first time since 1941. The best part of this whole scenario is that it won’t feature John Calipari hoisting a trophy, and “One Shining Moment” will air and remind us all how long and cold of a wait we have until college basketball returns in November.

Ryan Landreth

I’m a recent graduate of MidAmerica Nazarene University. In addition to writing for Rock Chalk Blog, I host the Inside the Paint podcast that covers KU basketball, and I write for Royals Review in the summer. My grandma has had season tickets to Jayhawk basketball for 30 years, and I have the privilege of going to most games with her.

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