Spartans and Badgers compete for NCAA Final Four Glory

Ray Bressette

Madness is a fitting word to describe the NCAA Division I basketball tournament this season. After four rounds and three weeks of college basketball craziness, four teams remain in the 64-team tournament that concludes this weekend in Indianapolis.

Luckily, sports teams on campus still have two regional teams competing for a national tournament in the Wisconsin Badgers and the Michigan State Spartans. However, both teams are going to have to pull out miracles for the ages in the national semi-finals if they are going to advance to the championship game.

Harvard v Michigan State

The Wisconsin Badgers are slated to go against the Kentucky Wildcats at 8:49 p.m. Saturday, April 4 on TBS.

The game will be a rematch of last season’s semi-finals, where the Wildcats took a 74-73 win over the Badgers as freshman Aaron Harrison hit a game-winning shot with five seconds remaining in the game to end Wisconsin’s season.

Now, the Badgers go up against the Wildcat team this season, who’s the No. 1-ranked team in the nation, flirting with the opportunity to become the first team in Division I college basketball to finish their season with a 41-0 record.

Harrison is leading the Wildcats in scoring this season, averaging 11 points a game, and standing at 6 foot 6 inches tall, Harrison is a leading force for the Kentucky offense.

Harrison’s twin brother, sophomore guard Andrew Harrison also plays for the Wildcats and averages 9.2 points per game.

The Wildcats faced their toughest challenge of the season this past weekend in the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, who held a 48-46 lead over Kentucky in the final minutes of the game.

However, the Wildcats scored their last nine shots of the match to earn a 68-66 win to advance to the final four.

As for the Badgers, their dynamic duo in senior forward Frank Kaminsky and junior forward Sam Dekker gives Wisconsin a legitamate shot at becoming the first team to take down Kentucky this season.

Kaminsky stands at 6 foot 11 inches, while Dekker stands at 6 foot 7, givng the Badgers an aggressive ability to control nearly any matchup they face. The two’s abilities to connect on free-throws and making smart shots could carry their team to Wisconsin’s first national basketball championship since 1941.

According to VegasInsider.com, the Badgers open up as five-point underdogs this weekend heading into the matchup.

Wisconsin is the one team Kentucky should not want to face this season in the tournament. With the size and offensive ability Wisconsin posses, the Badgers are more than capable of advancing on Saturday night. Also, the Wildcats have not played a full game this tournament, getting out-offensive rebounded in their last three games.

In the other matchup this weekend, the Michigan State Spartans will tipoff against America’s favorite team to hate, the Duke Blue Devils at 6:09 p.m. Saturday, April 4 on TBS.

The storyline in this game is the extrodinary work done by both coaches, as Duke’s head coach Mike Krzyzewski has brought the Blue Devils to the final four 12 times the past 30 years and are searching for their fifth championship in that time. As for Michigan State, NMU alumni Tom Izzo is in his seventh final four appearance with the Spartans in 16 years.

In the last nine meetings between Duke and Michigan State, the Blue Devils have taken the series 8-1.

Izzo said he acknowledges how lopsided the two coaches’ careers have been.

“It’s good to have him around because I’m always chasing,” Izzo said. “Seven (Final Fours) seems like a lot until you look at 12. Then it doesn’t seem as many.”

Senior guard Travis Trice leads the Spartans averaging 15.3 points per game with a .395 fieldgoal percentage.

The Spartans are 27-11 overall this season and are coming off a 76-70 overtime win against the Louisvlle Cardinals.

As for the Blue Devils, freshman center Jahlil Okafor is in control of Duke’s offense, averaging 17.5 points per game.

Freshman forward Justise Winslow is a strong defensive attack for Duke, racking up 186 defensive rebounds and 234 overall this season.

It would be great to see the two regional teams advance to the championship game, which will take place at 9:18 p.m. Monday, April 6.

It would be even greater to see a former NMU Wildcat and Yooper in Izzo host the championship trophy come Monday night.

However, there’s a reason both Duke and Kentucky have earned the top seed in their respected regions and appear to be on rolls that cannot be stopped this weekend.

Watch for Kentucky to make history this weekend, taking the championship over Duke and finish their season 41-0, an unprecedented feat.