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NCAA Tournament 2015: Odds and Predictions for Final Four Bracket

The best chance for a team to knock off the Kentucky Wildcats has already passed. When the Notre Dame Fighting Irish couldn’t pull off the win in the Elite Eight, the Wildcats had overcome their toughest impediment.

Notre Dame had size in the backcourt, athleticism and a disciplined offense that moved the ball well. Kentucky took Notre Dame’s best punch and survived. Now it will move through the Final Four to complete the perfect 40-0 season and win head coach John Calipari his second national championship.

Here’s a look at the odds and predictions for each semifinal and the predicted national championship game.

Heading into the national semifinal, the Wildcats are five-point favorites over the Wisconsin Badgers, per Odds Shark. The clear and early prediction in favor of Kentucky is meant as no disrespect to the Badgers. They are a phenomenal team. That’s partly why, as ESPN’s Chad Ford reports via the ESPN College Basketball Twitter account, there are so many potential first-round picks in this game.

Frank Kaminsky is a great college player, and head coach Bo Ryan is a good coach for this group. The problem is, the Wildcats are the 31st NBA team from a talent standpoint. They have leaders in Andrew and Aaron Harrison, and Willie Cauley-Stein, depth and, most importantly, experience from the run to the title game in 2014.

It’s hard to find an area where Wisconsin is superior.

In the other semifinal, the Duke Blue Devils’ size and tenacity on the defensive end should push them through to the championship game against Kentucky.

The Michigan State Spartans have one of the best coaches in the sport in Tom Izzo, but last I checked, Mike Krzyzewski was no slouch. Izzo will have a game plan to slow down Jahlil Okafor, but Coach K will have a counter. Look for Justise Winslow to do damage as a slasher in this game.

In the end, Duke’s frontcourt with Okafor and Marshall Plumlee are just too big for the Spartans. Athletically, Duke can do more on the defensive end. 

The Spartans don’t have the horses to be as versatile. Duke’s Winslow and Amile Jefferson can guard three positions on the floor. With players like that playing between the perimeter and the low post, it makes the jobs of Okafor and Plumlee easier.

Unless Sparty shoots the lights out from three-point range, Duke will advance.

In the title game, I expect Duke to keep it close early. However, Kentucky’s depth will wear the Blue Devils down in the second half. Okafor will see a revolving door of bigs check him in the post. Each of them will have length and shot-blocking ability. From Cauley-Stein and Karl-Anthony Towns to Dakari Johnson and Trey Lyles, it’s like an endless supply of bodies in the paint.

As good as Okafor is, he’ll tire late and Duke will find itself depending on outside shots.

In the last 20 minutes of the game, Kentucky will control the glass and the tempo. Fast-break points will favor the Wildcats, and they will be cutting down the nets to celebrate a championship.

 

Follow Brian Mazique on Twitter.

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