2015 NCAA Men’s National Basketball Championship Preview

The championship matchup has been set; it is going to be Duke vs. Wisconsin who will meet on Monday for the opportunity to capture the 2015 NCAA National Championship. It is not going to be Duke vs. Kentucky, as many where expecting; Wisconsin found a way to win against the undefeated Wildcats, introducing them to a long collection of “what ifs” that will always be known for being so close to their pursuit of perfection, but coming up short when it mattered most, and getting one of the biggest upsets in college basketball history.

This is going to be a very interesting matchup for both teams; they are both very similar in the way they rely on their big men to be their anchor on offense and defense, and guards to space the floor and create fluid shots. Both have a great chance of getting it done due to these similarities, but one of them has a more important and dominant player than the other, and that is Jahlil Okafor.

It’s already the final game of the season, and we are in for a treat. Duke and Wisconsin both feature a high-octane offense, a post presence, wing players, and multiple guards. Who will win the 2015 NCAA tournament? LWOS has their predictions:

2015 NCAA Men’s National Basketball Championship Preview

Jack Hammond: Both teams earned their way here and deserve to be here. While Wisconsin had wins over North Carolina, Arizona and Kentucky, Duke took down Utah, Gonzaga and Michigan State. Both teams love to shoot the three ball and shoot it well. They also feature dominant big guys in Frank Kaminsky and Jahlil Okafor. The key to this game will be tempo. Wisconsin wants to slow the game down, run their offense and score with under 15 seconds left on the shot clock. Meanwhile, Duke wants to get out in transition with Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow leading the attack. Wisconsin is very good at holding onto the ball and limiting turnovers, but if Duke can speed the game up, the Blue Devils will be crowned 2015 National Champions.

However, I don’t see Duke controlling the pace of the game. Remember, Kentucky wanted to get out on the break too, and Wisconsin did a nice job of forcing them to run half court offense. Kentucky made runs throughout the game that were centered on fast break alley-oops and turnovers, but Wisconsin was always able to gain control and settle the game down again. Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky are both great leaders and will help prevent the Badgers from getting flustered.

We hear a lot about how good Tyus Jones is at driving and creating, and he really is the real deal. He has a good NBA career ahead of him, but I want to focus on Traevon Jackson, a Wisconsin guard. Finally healthy, Jackson was the only Badger capable of beating Kentucky to the rim and drawing fouls. Jackson gives Bo Ryan depth now and should be featured more on Monday night in pick and rolls against a less-than-optimal perimeter defender in Okafor. If he can get by Kentucky on defense, he won’t have a problem against Duke.

Okafor will get his baskets and Duke will hit threes, but ultimately Wisconsin will use their senior leadership and chemistry to control the pace of the game, play good defense and win. I expect the game to be within 10 points, but ultimately Bo Ryan will win his first Division 1 championship.

Prediction: Wisconsin


Bailey VanHouten: Matchup wise, the teams are extremely even. Jahlil Okafor will matchup with Frank Kaminsky, Nigel Hayes with Matt Jones, Sam Dekker with Justise Winslow, Josh Gasser with Quinn Cook, and Bronson Koenig with Tyus Jones. This is a true toss-up that could come down to some coaching decisions.

Coach Krzyzeweski will have to decide how to defend a Wisconsin offense that put up 71 points on one of the best defenses in the country. Look for Coach K to have his guys go under screens to neutralize Okafor’s inability to defend screens, and keep him close to the basket. Going under the screens will also force Wisconsin’s guards to pull up from three, something that is not ideal for their offense.

Coach Bo Ryan will need to decide how he wants to defend Okafor. Kaminsky can do the job, but he cannot get in foul trouble if Wisconsin wants to win. Throwing two at Okafor during opportunistic chances could be the way Coach Ryan goes. Each team’s bench will be another big “x-factor” in this game. Both teams only go about eight deep, and both are stocked with shooters. Wisconsin is also going to have to get some penetration on Duke’s defense, something that could be a problem for them without a true breakdown guard. This should be a competitive game that comes down to the wire, but Duke’s Quinn Cook and Tyus Jones will be the ultimate difference. Both guards have more skill than Koenig and Gasser, and both possess a killer instinct at the end of games. Look for Cook to have a great game against the Badgers.

Prediction: Duke


Van Mor: Many factors come into play for Duke to win this game, but none more bigger than to feed Jahlil Okafor the basket inside the rim and let him find his own rhythm offensively. He faces a tough task against Frank Kaminsky but with his athleticism and much bigger body, he can get around him and win many matchups. If Okafor gets into a good offensive rhythm, this will create space and ball movement for Duke that can become very effective and create mismatches for Wisconsin. Duke’s defense has not yielded good results at times, and Wisconsin can use it to their advantage, but first they need to find a way to stop Duke’s offense, or they will not get good results.

In order for Wisconsin to win, their big men need to protect the rim against players like Okafor and Justice Winslow, preferably by putting two men on Okafor to force him to pass. Their outside shooters have been lethal all season long, particularly in the tournament, and for this game they need to be, especially for a team as multi facet team as Duke. They must also be very aggressive at defense, putting constant pressure on Duke and force them to take bad shots from the arch and beyond, particularly on their guards.

Wisconsin played Duke earlier in the season on December, with Duke pulling out a victory 80-70. I expect a similar result this time around. Duke’s offense has been very difficult to stop all year long, and Jahlil Okafor has caused big matchup problems throughout the tournament, not only for his size, but his body mass (275 lbs, compared to Kaminsky’s 234lbs). He can get to the rim only using pure force and a player of this type is almost unstoppable. His presence alone will jumpstart Duke’s offense, and his rim protection will make Wisconsin take more outside shots, and while they have had great success with them, it will be very difficult to get into any offensive rhythm without attacking the rim consistently. All this, coupled with Duke’s guard play and great ball movement will make Duke the 2015 NCAA Champions by a score of 75-68.

Prediction: Duke