(This story was originally published on Raleigh & Company)
Welcome, dear friends, to the best month in sports. March Madness is upon us. Last year, I not-so-successfully predicted every single game of the NCAA Tournament. Some of you (though probably none of you, outside of my parents) may recall my emphatic declaration that Michigan State would reign supreme, and cut down the nets in April. That didn’t exactly turn out as planned.
Now I’m back for round two. College basketball is my favorite sport. There’s just something special about a group of kids who take the same classes as your friends, family, and peers challenging other teams from around the country to be crowned the best team in all the land. An entire season boils down to six games in the spring. There are no banners for winning in November (Duke), and there are no rings for pre-season hype (Carolina). The only thing that matters is winning, and moving on. Survive and advance.
This season, unlike last year, seems to have a strong divide between the haves and the have-nots. For the last two months, I’ve held firm that there were five or six teams that could end the year with a win. The gap in talent between the top teams and the college basketball proletariat seems more defined than ever. This could either lead to a boring, by-the-book first round, or #TEAMCHAOS will reign supreme and we’ll all have to accept Rick Barnes as our Lord and Savior.
I feel the need to add a disclaimer here. I am a Duke student. These picks will be subjectively objective. Or something like that. I am the all-powerful. This is the first perfect bracket of all time (except it probably isn’t).
Now that the methodology is out of the way, let’s jump right in.
NCAA TOURNAMENTAPALOOZA 2015
“Round One” is just another way that the Man is suppressing you. RISE UP AGAINST THE OLIGARCHY. DEMAND YOUR BIRTHRIGHT. RESTORE THE PLAY-IN GAMES.
16. MANHATTAN V. 16. HAMPTON
Full disclosure: I know nothing about either of these teams. Manhattan was a solid squad last year, coming in as a 13 seed with a solid chance at an upset. Hampton sounds like the setting of a bad NBC sitcom. Manhattan moves on.
11. BYU V. 11. OLE MISS
THE ETERNAL STRIFE. MORMONS AGAINST THE DEEP SOUTH. No Marshall Henderson means this game will be substantially less fun than it could have been. God bless that flaming pile of human garbage. The mormons leave Dayton with their heads held high.
11. BOISE STATE V. 11. DAYTON
Okay, timeout for a second. Dayton is playing this game IN DAYTON. Isn’t there a rule about that? I mean like, I’m all for watching a Dayton home game, but still. The fighting Smurf-Turfs will be without their best player (Dmric) in a hostile environment, but they’ll emerge victorious. The Broncos ride onward.
16. UNIVERSITY OF NORTH FLORIDA V. 16. ROBERT MORRIS
So this is what it’s come to. The Panhandle vs. Bob Morris. William knocked off Kentucky in the first round of the NIT two years ago, but players in North Florida probably get to use firearms during the game. As a staunch Democrat, I’ve got to side with Robert Morris here. Blame the liberal media.
ROUND OF 64: MAKE IT RAIN
THE MIDWEST REGION
1. KENTUCKY V. 16. MANHATTAN
8. CINCINNATI V. 9. PURDUE
I’m writing this while sitting on a plane next to a Purdue grad. I’m terrified that he might kill me if he sees me speaking ill of his beloved Boilermakers. Machiavelli was right. It’s better to be feared than loved. Purdue advances.
5. WEST VIRGINIA V. 12. BUFFALO
Buffalo is one of those teams that pulled a Kansas-style cheat of the RPI system, ending up in the top 35 based on the way they schedule games. Don’t let that fool you though — the upstate-NY natives aren’t messing around. In their first ever appearance in the Big Dance, Buffalo shocks the nation and upsets West Virginia. Local Morgantown residents wont be that angry though — there isn’t any electricity in West Virginia, rendering the game unwatchable.
4. MARYLAND V. 13. VALPARAISO
You know that one relative you have that takes jokes a little too far? The one that makes everything kind of racist or crude. Well before he grew up to be your weird uncle, that guy went to Maryland. Maryland fans are the worst. They take the unmatched euphoria created from supporting their school and warp it into unjustifiable acts of malice. I hate Maryland with every single fiber of my body. I hate them. That being said, the Terps can hoop. Bye Valpo. It was fun while it lasted.
6. BUTLER V. 11. TEXAS
This isn’t your slightly older sibling’s Butler team. These guys aren’t the Brad Stevens-led stalwarts bludgeoned their way into two straight National Championship games, only to be turned away by NCAA royalty. They’re still solid though, and Texas is coached by Rick Barnes.
#Barnes’d. Go Bulldogs.
3. NOTRE DAME V. 14. NORTHEASTERN
Notre Dame has one of the most fun offenses in the country. They can score from nearly everywhere on the floor with sharpshooting wings, and the powerhouse that is Jerian Grant. They also keep a priest on their bench during every game which is hilarious.
Touchdown Jesus advances.
7. WICHITA STATE V. 10. INDIANA
#Crean. The Shockers move on.
2. KANSAS V. 15. NEW MEXICO STATE
You may fill out your bracket and think “Hey! 2 seeds are vulnerable! Duke lost to Mercer! Mizzou lost a few years ago! The Aggies can do it!” Please don’t reproduce. Think about the greater good. Rock Chalk Jayhawk.
THE WEST REGION
1. WISCONSIN V. 16. COASTAL CAROLINA
A 16 has never, and will never beat a 1 seed. Move along.
8. OREGON V. 9. OKLAHOMA STATE
I have this strange affinity for Oregon basketball teams. Maybe it’s because they’re consistently overshadowed by the school’s far superior football program, or maybe it’s the Singler connection. Whatever the reason, I really like the Ducks. They quack their way to the next round.
5. ARKANSAS V. 12. WOFFORD
A lot of people have been throwing around Wofford as one of those teams that could pull a major upset this year. Those people are wrong. Arkansas is a soft 5 seed, but they’re lightyears better than Wofford. Razerbacks crack the whip.
4. NORTH CAROLINA V. 13. HARVARD
A lot of people in the Triangle have used this draw to bring up UNC’s recent academic scandal. Carolina fans responded by bringing up Harvard’s own academic scandal in 2012. There are a lot of fun storylines here — Amaker v. UNC. Ivy v. Public Ivy. North v. South. Good basketball team v. bad basketball team, etc. The Tar Heels have shown they have extraordinary potential all year. They breeze by the Crimson.
6. XAVIER V. 11. BYU
3. BAYLOR V. 14. GEORGIA STATE
Over the past few years, Baylor has quietly evolved in a consistently strong team in the Big 12. This year’s squad is no different, as they absolutely earned their 3 seed in the West. Their opponent Georgia State has a phenomenal backcourt, though. Led by former Kentucky standout Ryan Harrow and future NBA draft pick RJ Hunter, this group can make some noise. Not to mention they also boast former Louisville Cardinal Kevin Ware, who became famous the second his leg stopped working like normal legs do in the 2013 Elite 8. As talented as Georgia State is, Baylor is just too strong. The Bears move on.
7. VCU V. 10. OHIO STATE
D’Angelo Russell can do dirty, inhumane things with basketballs. The Buckeye guard will be a top 5 pick in this summer’s draft, and for a while was talked about as a potential threat to be taken first overall. I love Shaka Smart, and the HAVOC system he implements, but I honestly don’t see the Rams making a run this year. Just breaks my heart to send a fellow Shak(er)a home.
2. ARIZONA V. 15. TEXAS SOUTHERN
A little earlier, I mentioned that there were five teams that could win the title this year. Arizona is one of them. The Wildcats move on after Stanley Johnson leads a Troy Bolton-esque rendition of “We’re All in this Together.” WILDCATS. GET YOUR HEAD IN THE GAME.
THE EAST REGION
1. VILLANOVA V. 16. LAFAYETTE
See: Kentucky v. Manhattan, Wisconsin v. Coastal Carolina.
8. NC STATE V. 9. LSU
When Texas was unveiled as the 11 seed in the Midwest, my heart sank. I immediately thought that the selection committee had passed over the Wolfpack. Thankfully, I was wrong. NC State is unbelievably inconsistent, turning in an otherworldly performance one night, and a dud the next (Re: ACC Tournament). They’re a strong team when they find their groove though. Cat Barber and Trevor Lacey carry them into the second round.
5. NORTHERN IOWA V. 12. WYOMING
BREAKING NEWS: Northern Iowa is very, very good at basketball. They’ve been overlooked all year, and brushed off as another mid-major with a weak schedule. Don’t let their appearance fool you — this team can ball. They’re this year’s Wichita State. They advance easily.
4. LOUISVILLE V. 13. UC IRVINE
This matchup gave me pause. Louisville hasn’t been the same since they dismissed point guard Chris Jones following allegations of sexual assault. They go up against UC Irvine, and the tallest player in college sports. At 7’6, Mamadou Ndaiye is a force to be reckoned with in the post. I have the Cardinals moving on, but Irvine will make this closer than you’d expect.
6. PROVIDENCE V. 11. BOISE STATE
After a strong season in the Big East, Providence enters this game as the 6 seed. Led by one of the best passers in the country in Kris Dunn, the Friars have put together a formidable backcourt. I still don’t think they have what it takes to beat the Broncos. Providence is a sad, and lonely place, but nothing drives athletes to be better than the threat of having to return home to Idaho. Nothing that will ever happen to you will be half as awful as living in Idaho.
3. OKLAHOMA V. 14. ALBANY
Albany won the American East Tournament on a last-second three that would have made Steph Curry blush. They’re a great story. The story ends here though. Oklahoma marches through for a date with destiny. Can you say Fiesta Bowl rematch?
7. MICHIGAN STATE V. 10. GEORGIA
Last year, I picked the Spartans to win the whole damn thing. They let me down. This year, they struggled early, and crawled into the middle part of the season as a mediocre Big Ten team. Times have changed though. The East Lansing squad was a late Wisconsin comeback away from winning their conference title. If history has taught me anything — and I like to think that it has — it’s that you should never, ever bet against Izzo in March. Sparty’s dance continues.
2. VIRGINIA V. 15. BELMONT
Belmont is one of those teams that delivers upsets year after year. They’re perennial date crashers, leaving the cool jocks stunned as they swoop in and steal the prom queen. Or something like that. I’m bad at imagery. Whatever. The point is, they can make some noise. It won’t really matter though, because Virginia is dirty. This is the first non-boring Virginia squad ever, probably. Or at least since Tony Bennett took charge. Virginia wins.
THE EAST REGION
1. DUKE V. 16. ROBERT MORRIS
8. SAN DIEGO STATE V. 9. ST. JOHN’S
San Diego State has a weird connection to Michigan thanks to sending us Brady Hoke, and having Steve Fisher at the helm of their basketball program. This Michigan Man-ness could either be their downfall, or the reason for their transcendence into the elite. My guess it they’ll end up somewhere in the middle. San Diego State moves on.
5. UTAH V. 12. SF AUSTIN
I am not a smart man. I like upsets. I like explosions. Hell, sometimes I think Adam Sandler is funny. Every part of me wants to think that SF Austin could pull a huge win out of nowhere and shock the Utes, but I have to fight my urges, and resist #TeamChaos. Utah lives to fight another day.
4. GEORGETOWN V. 13. EASTERN WASHINGTON
Georgetown is ranked highly in a game they’re probably going to overlook? EASTERN WASHINGTON MARCHES ONWARD. RODNEY STUCKEY SMILES MENACINGLY.
6. SMU V. 11. UCLA
A decade ago, Larry Brown was arguably the best coach leading the best team in the NBA. Now, he’s scraping together recruiting classes and bending the rules in his favor. UCLA knows the feeling. It’s a battle between not-Ben Howland, and a coaching legend. SMU is better at nearly every position. UCLA shouldn’t even be here. THIS ONE IS FOR YOU, COLORADO STATE.
3. IOWA STATE V. 14. UAB
Spoiler alert: Iowa State is the most underrated team in America. UAB is not. Iowa State advances.
7. IOWA V. 10. DAVIDSON
Long gone are the days when Steph Curry lit up the tournament and drained threes at a clip unseen since his father stood beyond the ark. Davidson has retained the underdog spirit though, and will take it to the Hawkeyes. Carry on, Davidson. Carry on.
2. GONZAGA V. 16. NORTH DAKOTA STATE
The Zags are one of the best teams in the country. No upsets here.
ROUND OF 32: OH SWEET BABY JESUS IT’S GO TIME
THE MIDWEST REGION
1. KENTUCKY V. 9. PURDUE
Purdue twice escaped a mediocre-at-best Penn State team on last minute runs. I have no faith in the Boilermakers doing anything at all. I’m also off of my plane. Kentucky wins by 1000.
12. BUFFALO V. 4. MARYLAND
Oh Bobby Hurley, your team fought so valiantly. They played so well. They beat West Virginia! But all good things must come to an end. It’s just a shame that it happens against the scum of the earth. I hate you Dez Wells.
6. BUTLER V. 3. NOTRE DAME
BATTLE INDIANA: THE RE-HOOSIERING. Notre Dame has the best offense in America. I cannot stress that enough. When they’re firing on all cylinders, no one can stop them. When they’re cold, they lose by 30 to Duke. Butler is good, but they’re not good enough to stall the Fighting Irish. I begrudgingly move them on.
7. WICHITA STATE V. 2. KANSAS
POTENTIAL UPSET ALERT: Kansas is not as good as everyone thinks they are. Wichita State are exactly as good as everyone thinks they are. Cliff Alexander has officially been ruled ineligible for the NCAA tournament, meaning that the Jayhawks are without one of their best players. I honestly think Wichita State is the favorite here. I just don’t think they have the talent to knock Kansas out of the draw. This isn’t last year’s undefeated team. Wichita State has flaws. Kansas nudges them out in a rematch of one of last year’s most fun games.
THE WEST REGION
1. WISCONSIN V. 8. OREGON
Listen Oregon, it’s not you, it’s me. We had a some laughs. There was that time you almost convinced me PAC-12 Basketball wasn’t dead. Remember that? You looked so cute in your combination uniforms. But this is moving too fast. We’re not right for each other. I met someone else. He’s from the Midwest. He makes his own cheese. He has family values! I’m sorry it had to end like this. I’m with Wisconsin now. I hope we can still be friends.
5. ARKANSAS V. 4. NORTH CAROLINA
This is one of my favorite second round matchups. UNC is streaky, but they’re one of the most talented teams in the country. Marcus Paige is one of the 10 most dangerous players in America when he has room to work, and Kennedy Meeks and Brice Johnson have turned themselves into a dominant pairing when they share the floor. Carolina has skill that Arkansas can’t compete with. Ol’ Roy lives to fight another day.
6. XAVIER V. 3. BAYLOR
This is the last chance any of us will ever have to watch Matt Stainbrook. I don’t take something like that lightly. Xavier is a solid squad, but they’re a soft 6 seed. Baylor is one of the most complete teams in the country.
I’m so sorry, Matt. Goodnight, Sweet Prince.
10. OHIO STATE V. 2. ARIZONA
Ohio State, like UNC, is streaky. They have the talent to push Arizona, but it won’t be enough. The Wildcats’ defense will stifle D’Angelo Russell, and the freshman phenom’s season (and likely career) will end here.
THE EAST REGION
1. VILLANOVA V. 8. NC STATE
I wish I could tell you that I cared at all about the outcome of this game. I don’t. Villanova will win. Raleigh will be sad. I will be sleeping.
5. NORTHERN IOWA V. 4. LOUISVILLE
RISE UP, NORTHERN IOWA. REMEMBER YOUR FOREFATHERS BEFORE YOU. PRAIZE BE TO ALI FAROKHMANESH, THE KANSAS KILLER. DOWN GO THE CARDINALS. DOWN GOES PITINO. DOWN GOES LOUISVILLE.
11. BOISE STATE V. 3 OKLAHOMA
FIESTA BOWL REMATCH! FIESTA BOWL REMATCH!
Different outcome this time though. P.S. I miss you Ian Johnson.
7. Michigan State v. Virginia
With the draw Virginia was given, there are only two teams that could beat them before the National Championship game. Duke in the Final Four, or Michigan State, here, in the Round of 32. Common knowledge dictates that I trust St. Izzo with my life. And I do. But I don’t see his team winning this game. Travis Trice and Branden Dawson have been lights out for the Spartans of late, and Anderson’s injury has Virginia spiraling, but I just can’t put Michigan State through to the next round. This game will be pure Big 10 basketball. The final score will be something like 51–48. All of my friends from home will cry. My heart will shed a tear too. Goodnight, MSU.
THE SOUTH REGION
1. DUKE V. 8. SAN DIEGO STATE
San Diego State is a solid team, but they don’t have the talent to match up with the Blue Devils. Duke has the best starting five in the country, and can score in more ways than I can count. Led by senior leader Quinn Cook, the Devils are the most evenly balanced offense in the tournament. They’re able put the ball down low to the ACC’s only actual superstar (Jahlil Okafor), or pop it out to any of Duke’s legion of sharpshooters. The Aztecs are just overmatched. Duke moves on.
5. UTAH V. 13. EASTERN WASHINGTON
Utah is just too good to lose to these plebes. They’ll leave EWU sprawled out on the court giving their best Aaron Craft impression.
6. SMU V. 3. IOWA STATE
Before I start this one, I have to make something very clear: SMU is a damn good team. They’re an Emmanuel Mudiay away from being a dark horse Final Four team. The thing is though — they’re not good enough to beat Iowa State this year. Led by Monstar forward Georges Niang, this team is built for the tournament. They have upperclassmen leadership, and are incredibly well rounded. The Cyclones sweep SMU away.
10. DAVIDSON V. 2. GONZAGA
I really like Davidson. I do. But this one is going to the Zags. Gonzaga, in my not-so-humble opinion, is one of the most well-rounded teams in the tournament. They’re solid at every position. They’re deep. They can score. They can defend. They can do everything. They nearly beat Arizona, and they beat SMU. They also have little Sabonis. Zags win this easy.
MY SUPER SWEET 16
THE MIDWEST REGION
1. KENTUCKY V. 3. MARYLAND
Okay this is where it gets interesting. Melo Trimble and Dez Wells combine for one of the stronger backcourts left in the dance, and could give Kentucky some fits if this game starts slow. The Terps defend well, and have the capability of knocking down big shots. This could be Kentucky’s first scare on the way to perfection. I don’t think they lose, but I think there will be chunks of the game early on where Big Blue Nation is a little worried that this is the end.
3. NOTRE DAME V. 2. KANSAS
This game is going to be more lopsided than you think. Kansas is without their best interior players, and Notre Dame has guys who can hurt you. Kansas is more talented than the Fighting Irish, but not by much. Between Pat Cannaughton and Steve Vasturia, Notre Dame can bury teams from three. If you try to focus on that aspect of their offense and shut them down, you just open holes for Jerian Grant to take over. The Irish send Kansas back home in a game that will finish 85–70.
THE WEST REGION
1. WISCONSIN V. 4. NORTH CAROLINA
Alright UNC fans, this is the part where you call me a biased hack because I go to Duke and I think you lose this game. UNC is a top ten team based on talent alone, but they rarely show it. I don’t trust Roy Williams as a coach, and I don’t think these guys can play as a unit well enough to knock off Wisconsin. The Badgers are the most consistent team in the country this year (along with UK). On their best days, they could win the title, and on their worst, they could still win the title. I like the cheeseheads here.
3. BAYLOR V. 2. ARIZONA
This matchup is a tricky one. The Bears are a really even team all-around, but there aren’t any stars that could carry them if the going gets tough. In the end, I think that’s what hurts them. Arizona is stupid good when they’re on, and lately, they’ve been on. The one thing that worries me about this team is where the points come from. Stanley Johnson has been fantastic, but inconsistent. Brandon Ashley will supply his fair share, but who else can support this team if they’re slumping? I still think Arizona wins this, but it will be close.
THE EAST REGION
1. VILLANOVA V. 5. NORTHERN IOWA
AND THE FIRST ONE SEED FALLS. Northern Iowa will take out Villanova — the softest one seed since the last time they took out a top team (looking at you, Kansas). Yes, Villanova is the #2 ranked team in America, and yes, they won 32 games, but they will not advance past this. Seth Tuttle has his teammates locked and loaded. Being a 5 seed and winning 30 games wasn’t enough. They want more. They’re going for blood. They get it. Down goes Nova.
3. OKLAHOMA V. 2. VIRGINIA
This game hinges on how healthy Anderson is. If he’s the struggling mess we saw in the ACC tournament, Virginia is going to have some problems. However, if he’s half as good as he was early in the year, Virginia breezes by Oklahoma here. To beat UVA, you have to score. The Sooners have guys who can do that, but it wont be enough to top Virginia’s stifling defense and consistent play.
THE SOUTH REGION
1. DUKE V. 5. UTAH
On paper, this matchup is terrifying. Utah is ranked 8th by Ken Pomeroy while my Blue Devils sit just above them in 7th. I am a dedicated follower of the Church of Advanced Metrics, but my pick in this game comes from the good ol’ eye test. Duke is better than Utah, plain and simple. This is one of the best, if not the best offenses in the country. It could be the best Duke offense of all time. Utah will make this a game, but Duke prevails in the end.
3. IOWA STATE V. 2. GONZAGA
Let’s pick this one based on team names. If a bulldog fought a cyclone, he would get thrown down so hard that we would weep in sadness. Cyclones win this in a nail-biter.
ELITE EIGHT: DOWN GOES CINDERELLA
1. KENTUCKY V. 3. NOTRE DAME
This is where life gets more difficult for the Wildcats. Notre Dame has a God-awful defense, but can, and will score enough to make your head spin. UK comes into this game as the tallest team in the country, and what would be one of the tallest squads in the NBA. They have the size to hurt the Irish down low, and ultimately, that’s what will carry them to the Final Four. Karl-Anthony Towns and Willie Cauley-Stein are two of the best big men in America, and if either of them gets into foul trouble, they can be replaced by fellow blue-chipper Dakari Johnson. This team is stupid good. UK wins the Midwest Region.
1. WISCONSIN V. 2. ARIZONA
This will be one of the most fun games of the year. Both teams are among the five best in the country, play strong defense, and have enough star power to threaten the Kentucky regime. However, it will be the Badgers that stay dancing. Arizona’s downfall will come at the hands of their best player — Stanley Johnson. The Wildcats desperately need him to excel if they want a chance to cut down the nets, but his inconsistent play has left fans wondering if they can do it. This Arizona team closely resembles the one that beat Duke in 2011. Johnson can be this year’s Derrick Williams — I just don’t think he will be. Wisconsin wins. Kaminsky wins. America is happy either way.
5. NORTHERN IOWA V. 2. VIRGINIA
Oh, Northern Iowa, this is where your journey ends. You fought valiantly, but Virginia is just too strong. Hold your heads high. This is the deepest you’ve ever gotten. UVA, you’re going to the Final Four.
1. DUKE V. 3. IOWA STATE
Tough day for people in the Hawkeye state. Georges Niang can only take this team so far, and this is where the slipper falls. Duke is just too good this year. The Devils could have three 20 point scorers in this game. I love this Iowa State team, but I love this Duke team more. Duke wins the South.
FINAL FOUR: THUNDERCATS ARE GOOOOOOOOOO
1. KENTUCKY V. 1. WISCONSIN
This is a game I’ve been waiting for all year. The two most complete teams in America going head to head for a shot in the National Championship game. Both teams feel like they have what it takes to cut down the nets. Both teams are right. Frank Kaminsky is the presumptive National Player of the Year for a reason. He’s flanked by Sam Dekker and Nigel Hayes — two forwards who can consistently pack a punch. I think Wisconsin is overlooked in this tournament because of the star power on other squads. I want to move them on, but I just can’t. The platoon is just too good. Booker, Ullis, and the Harrisons make up a dominant backcourt to compliment their dominant frontcourt. Kentucky moves to 39–0.
2. VIRGINIA V. 1. DUKE
This is a rematch of one of my favorite games of the year. Duke went down 10 on the road to the Hoos, looking dominated at every turn. Then, in the final 10 minutes, they dropped 30 points. They turned on the afterburners, and showed why they’re the most dangerous team in the country. To predict this game, we need to look at Tyus Stones. In big games this year, Jones comes alive. He saved Duke against UVA. He saved Duke against UNC (twice). He saved Duke against nearly every top opponent they’ve played. This team has the upcoming top pick, and the next Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, but the most important player on the floor is the freshman point guard. He finds ways to slice through defenses and pops passes to the open man with ease. He and Quinn Cook make up the best backcourt tandem in the country. Virginia will make this game as exciting as the last with incredible defense and a slow pace, but Duke will win this time just like they did in January. Duke goes to the National Championship game.
NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
1. KENTUCKY V. 1. DUKE
Forget what I said about Wisconsin v. Kentucky being the game I’ve been waiting for all year. This is the game everyone has been waiting for. This is Duke v. Kentucky. Two blue bloods going head to head for the crown. This is the shot in 1992. This is Calapari v. Krzyzewski. This is Jahlil vs. Towns, and it’s Big Blue Nation vs. Duke Blue Planet. It’s a public school known as an NBA factory vs. an elite private school known for its collegiate prowess. This is two of the best programs of all time, and one of the best, least played rivalry games in the world.
This is Duke’s first taste of glory since 2010. Duke will win the 2015 NCAA Tournament, and here’s why.
This game will be ugly for 32 minutes. For three-quarters of the night, this will be a hard-nosed, bloody game. Duke will go down by 5 at half, and Kentucky will build the lead to 10 with 8 minutes left. Then it’ll happen. Duke will unleash that offensive juggernaut they’ve had going for them late in almost every big game this year. Amile Jefferson is the key here. If he plays well in his minutes down low, and Marshall Plumlee can work as an adequate replacement for Jahlil when he’s on the bench, Duke will win this game. Fueled by their captain, Quinn Cook, this team will take down the Kentucky Wildcats. They will become the Giants to Kentucky’s Patriots. Duke can, and will win this game because it can match up with Kentucky at every spot on the floor. The Blue Devils have the best starting five in college basketball. Kentucky, with its platoon system, has the second, and third best. If Duke’s bench is gassed trying to keep up with the Wildcats all night, this could be a different story. It won’t be though. Duke will cut down the nets. Order has been restored.
Happy March Madness, kids. The fun is about to start.