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KENTUCKY LOSES; DUKE WINS

April 4, 2015, Queens,  Sorry Wisconsin, but the bigger story is about Kentucky losing.  Congrats to you for coming back after a heartbreaking lost in last year’s Final Four, but this game is more about the loser than the winner.  Chris Webber, who was criticized for criticizing this undefeated Kentucky team, was right.  They are not great.  Not by a long stretch.  Last week Kentucky’s flaws were revealed by Notre Dame. This week, they played Wisconsin (who is Notre Dame 2.0) and didn’t make any real adjustments.  It’s dribble drive and drive dribble.

Kentucky is way more talented, but they were not given a game plan that would exploit their strengths.  Dribble Drive.  Drive Dribble.  The Wisconsin Badgers won 71-64 in a game that was much closer than the score would indicate.  College Player of the Year, Frank Kaminsky, had 20 points and 11 rebounds, and Sam Dekker added 16 points.  Karl-Anthony Towns had 16 points and 9 rebounds, but Willie Cauley-Stein, whose stock in the NBA Draft will likely plummet, had 2 points, 2 personal fouls, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, and 2 blocks.  Wisconsin outrebounded Kentucky 34-22.  Pat Riley used to say, “No rebounds, No rings.”

For John Calipari, this will have him tossing and turning in his sleep for many nights to come.  He just received the prestigious AP Coach of the Year accolade.  His team won more games than any team in history entering the Final Four.  The team was stacked with McDonald’s All-Americans.  The opponent didn’t have Kentucky’s length or athleticism.  But what Wisconsin had was a game plan.  True, Calipari was able to get top talent to play unselfishly and cherish defense.  True, Calipari got the players to sacrifice playing time without griping.  But he didn’t give them much of an offensive game plan.  Shame on Coach Cal.  He had a winning hand and lost.  The Harrison twins couldn’t bail them out with a big three this time.  So Wisconsin gets to play for the chip for the first time since 1941.

Duke is in the Finals.  They beat Michigan State 81-61, as they should have.  Michigan State is marginally talented even though they are superbly coached by Tom Izzo who is arguably the best coach in college basketball.  Give Izzo the Kentucky team and they would have annihilated every team.  Scorched earth.  Back to Duke and Coach K (let’s save a few key strokes by not spelling his surname).  Duke dominated.  They are on a mission and playing their best ball at the right time.  Duke has offensive and defensive fire power.  Coach K is close to winning his fifth national title.  He understands that it may be another four or five years before this opportunity presents itself again.  Coach K is not a young man.  He is approaching 70 (having just turned 68 in February).  If he could win two more championships, he would be in rarified air.  Wooden won more, but that was in a different era.  Two more championships would cement his legacy as the greatest college basketball coach (men’s) ever.

It’s Duke vs. Wisconsin.  And Duke is the story.  No matter how well Wisconsin plays, the storyline is Duke.  So, the headlines will read late Monday night either “Duke Wins” or “Duke Loses.”  Sorry Wisconsin.

Professor Clifford Benton can be reached at cliffb@puresportsny.com

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