The 2015 National Championship is upon us, and the Badger of Honor staff once again attempts to look into the crystal ball and give you our National Championship predictions for Wisconsin-Duke.
The Wisconsin Badgers are on a championship run, and look to cap off one of the most memorable runs in school history with a National Championship win Monday night over the Duke Blue Devils in Indianapolis.
Wisconsin and Duke met once this season, with the Badgers coming up short at home.
This time around, Wisconsin is hot off of knocking out the then-undefeated Kentucky Wildcats and looking to earn the team’s first National Championship since 1941.
Let’s take a look at how the Badger of Honor staff think this one will play out:
As great as beating the unbeaten is and was, Wisconsin must turn the page quickly and focus on Duke. Don’t be surprised to see the Badgers come out sluggish at first. But Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker will keep Wisconsin in this one throughout the game. It’s going to be a slugfest, as both teams are equally good and arguably two of the best teams in the country. It’s been one of the greatest rides I’ve ever been apart of concerning anything related to sports. The ride ends Monday night with Wisconsin exacting revenge one last time this year.
Wisconsin 74, Duke 69
Sam Dekker, Frank Kaminsky, vs Justise Winslow, Jahlil Okafor. These matchups will be a thrill to watch in the National Championship game. Whichever duo puts up more points and boards will likely take the victory in my opinion. That doesn’t mean though that players like Nigel Hayes, Bronson Koenig, or Tyus Jones won’t step up. It simply seems though that the four players mentioned first will likely be the main input. A fast paced game will be set by Duke, while the Badgers will be attempting at slowing it down. Duke shot lights out in their regular season matchup, and that will not be as likely to happen again. It is the Championship game however, and if a team or player feels hot, they’ll shoot well. Pressure didn’t seem to be an issue for either team on Saturday, and shouldn’t happen Sunday. I expect this game to go down to the wire, on the contrary to the Wisconsin vs. Kentucky game.
Wisconsin 68, Duke 66
Coming off one of the biggest wins in the program’s history, don’t expect this Badgers team to take even a pinky toe off of the gas pedal. This Wisconsin team had the Championship game in their sights from the moment they hit the court in the offseason, and aren’t about to let up with one game left. It won’t be easy, as the Duke Blue Devils roll into the championship game on a hot run themselves. Wisconsin will once again square off against a team loaded with NBA-bound freshmen, a talented group led by center and potential No. 1 overall pick Jahlil Okafor. Tyus Jones gave Wisconsin fits when the two teams met in December, and Duke shot lights-out in the Kohl Center on the way to a 10-point victory. The Badgers need to minimize Jones’ impact off the dribble, force Okafor to earn every shot he takes, and keep feeding its beasts on offense – Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker – in order to finish off a championship run. I believe they have what it takes.
Wisconsin 77, Duke 73
Douglas J. Etten
Everyone would love to see a close game in this one. After all, a championship game just isn’t the same if it’s not a back and forth battle. Things seem to certainly be setting up that way. Both Duke and Wisconsin are well coached, both flaunt All-Americans underneath and each have those two or three role players who can at any minute explode for a big game. Wisconsin is riding high, Duke finds themselves back for another shot. Whichever team takes care of the basketball, rebounds at a better rate and is able to work both inside and out stands a better chance here. Wisconsin does it, and wins.
Wisconsin 77, Duke 71.
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The Badgers are riding high coming off arguably the biggest win in program history, but don’t expect them to be giving Duke anything less than their full attention. Two of the country’s best offenses featuring two of the nation’s best players (Frank Kaminsky and Jahlil Okafor) will square up Monday night in Indianapolis. In the end, Wisconsin’s dynamic frontcourt duo of Kaminsky and Sam Dekker will be the difference, and the Badgers will avenge their loss to the Blue Devils back in December and will cut down the nets as national champions for the first time since 1941.
Wisconsin 80, Duke 72
The win against Kentucky was the best game I’ve ever seen. The celebrations have been wild and the media attention has been fantastic. But believe it or not, there is still a game to be played. But I’m not worried about Wisconsin losing focus. This is an experienced team with plenty of senior leadership. I haven’t picked against Wisconsin all tournament, and I’m not about to start now. In the regular season, Duke only beat UW by 10 shooting nearly 60 percent from 3 and 70 percent from the field. There is no chance that happens again. There’s also no chance Sam Dekker and Nigel Hayes combine for 5 points, and Bronson Koenig will only have 3. Rasheed Sulaimon, who is no longer on the team, scored 14 points for Duke. To put it simply, Wisconsin is a different team than it was in December. They are going to win this game. However, it’s going to be close. Wisconsin will struggle to defend the 3, which Duke excels at hitting. It’s going to come down to the wire, and no team is better in the clutch than Wisconsin.
Wisconsin 75, Duke 71
Jahlil Okafor will be the best freshman on the court on Monday, it’s just a good thing Wisconsin doesn’t use freshmen. The Badgers were tired the first go around against Duke in December. They had just come off four straight wins against future tournament teams UAB, Boise State, Georgetown and Oklahoma, while Duke was riding high after wins over Army, Furman, Stanford and Temple. Duke had swagger and Wisconsin needed a break. This time around, Wisconsin has the swagger after stopping Kentucky and the Blue Devils are still probably wondering how.
Wisconsin 80, Duke 70