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The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

All of the Final Four have a shot in Indianapolis

It is finally here.

After two weeks of March Madness, the shredding of countless brackets and the elimination of 64 teams, the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Final Four is set.

This came on the heels of a handful of early upsets, buzzer-beaters and big games that the tournament brought, but now the grand stage is set. The teams who advanced to the Final Four are all from programs with tournament pedigrees and will not be hypnotized by the limelight.

Number-one seeds University of Kentucky, University of Wisconsin, and Duke University along with seven-seeded Michigan State University comprise the championship field.

All four schools have rich basketball history, current and future hall of fame coaches and star studded rosters that led them to Indianapolis. The consensus favorites are the undefeated Kentucky Wildcats.

The 38–0 Wildcats have the best start in NCAA history and could become the first team since the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers to finish a season undefeated. If Kentucky wins the tournament they would be the first to go 40–0.

This is coach John Calipari and Kentucky’s fourth Final Four in five years.

Though the only players on this Kentucky team that have any Final Four experience are sophomore twins Andrew and Aaron Harrison, it does not seem any of the others are shying away from the biggest stage.

Junior forward Willie Cauley-Stein, who was injured during last year’s national championship game loss to the University of Connecticut, and possible top NBA draft pick freshman forward Karl-Anthony Towns have anchored the Wildcats through the Tournament.

After cruising through the first three rounds, which included a 39-point beat-down of West Virginia University in the Sweet 16, Kentucky faced the University of Notre Dame.

This Elite Eight matchup went back and forth all night, and with 6 seconds left Andrew Harrison knocked down two free throws to take a 68–66 lead. Notre Dame’s star senior guard Jerian Grant had a shot at a buzzer-beater three. But the shot sailed long in the midst of three Kentucky defenders; punching the ticket for the Wildcats’ berth in the Final Four as the Midwest Region Champion. They will be facing the West Region champs, the Wisconsin Badgers.

Wisconsin finds themselves in the exact same spot they were last year, a Final Four matchup with Kentucky. In that game, Aaron Harrison hit a three with five seconds left to give Kentucky the one-point lead and a 74–73 win.

The Badgers return to the game with the core players who suffered the heartbreaking loss last year.

Led by senior forwards Sam Dekker and potential player of the year Frank Kaminsky, the Badgers match up well with Kentucky, and fans can expect another nail-biter.

After cruising in their first tournament game, Wisconsin was in close games on their path to the Final Four. Each of their last three games have been single digit wins.

At this point in the season all that matters is winning, and the Badgers are good at that.

They also have redemption on their mind from last year’s loss; the Badgers may have the motivation and talent to take down the Wildcats.

As could either team on the other side of the bracket.

The East Region Champion Michigan State Spartans prevailed through a bracket that blew up in the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament.

One-seed Villanova University was upset by eight-seed North Carolina State University and the Spartans themselves upset the two seed University of Virginia Cavaliers, opening up the region for anyone to take. The Spartans took advantage of the opportunity.

Led by senior guard Travis Trice and junior guard Denzel Valentine, Sparty and Tom Izzo are once again in the Final Four.

All of Michigan State’s Tournament games have been won by single digits and have been low scoring.

Although the Spartans are playing the “surprise” team in this year’s tournament with 11 losses, there really should be no surprise in seeing them here.

A rule to remember for your bracket next year: do not pick against Spartan coach Tom Izzo in March. With this appearance, coach Izzo has led the Spartans to seven Final Fours in 20 years.

However, the same could be said about coach Mike Krzyzewski.

Coach Krzyzewski’s Duke Blue Devils find themselves back in the Final Four for the first time since their 2010 National Championship.

During their four-year absence from the Final Four, Duke has seen some early, and uncharacteristic, first-round upsets that bounced them from the tournament in 2012 (against Lehigh University) and 2014 (against Mercer University).

The difference this year is freshman center Jahlil Okafor, player of the year candidate and the consensus 2015 top overall NBA draft pick.

Okafor, along with senior guard Quinn Cook, freshman forward and probable NBA lottery pick Justise Winslow and freshman guard Tyus Jones have led the Blue Devils on a tear through the tournament.

Their closest game was a six-point win over the University of Utah in the Sweet 16. The Devils followed that with a 14-point win over Gonzaga University in the Elite Eight to become the South Region champs.

With the way the Devils are playing, their immensely talented rotation and coach K at the helm, the Blue Devils have as good as shot as anybody to take down Kentucky in Indianapolis.

So, while the Madness has just one weekend left in the 2015 season, fans can still anticipate the best matchups that a March Madness junkie could ask for.

Now all that is left is for these exemplary teams to fight it out and decide a champion.

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Reese Setzer, Sports Editor

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