March Madness 2015 Predictions: Final Four- Tuesday, March 17th
Final Four Games(1) Kentucky over (2) Arizona
These two teams are accustomed to blowing out their opponents. Kentucky and Arizona rank first and third in the nation with an average scoring margin of 20.9 and 17.8, respectively. Despite winning many of their games comfortably, this game should be a tightly-contested matchup.
As noted earlier in regional predictions, Kentucky and Arizona are the two teams with the best odds to win the NCAA Tournament. Of course, Kentucky essentially has even-money odds (-105); Arizona doesn't (+800).
Baskets should be at a premium in this matchup. Both of these teams are great defensive teams and rank in the top-three in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency, per kenpom.com. In addition, Arizona ranks second in the nation in rebounding margin (+8.8) behind Quinnipiac (+12.4).
Not only do both teams play excellent team defense, but they have several incredible defenders from an individual standpoint. Kentucky's Willie Cauley-Stein is a seven-footer with the rare ability to defend all five positions and Stanley Johnson is a man amongst boys and arguably the best wing defender in all of college basketball.
Let's hope for a quadruple-OT Final Four matchup between these two teams and while Arizona may have the best shot at handing Kentucky its first/only loss of the season, Kentucky is still clearly the better team.
(3) Iowa State over (7) Michigan State
It's been a few years since Tom Izzo and Michigan State have appeared in the Final Four. Of course, it's been much longer for Iowa State (1944). With his 18th consecutive March Madness appearance this year, Izzo has taken the Spartans to the Final Four six times -- 1999, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2009 and 2010.
Getting to a seventh Final Four would be a tremendous accomplishment as he would tie UNC's Roy Williams and Louisville's Rick Pitino for the fourth-most of all-time. Only John Wooden (12), Mike Krzyzewski (11) and Dean Smith (11) have more than seven. That said, this is not Izzo's best team and I see the run ending here for Sparty.
Despite Iowa State's lack of Final Four pedigree, coach Fred Hoiberg has the program among the best in the country. Winners of the Big 12 Tournament despite trailing Kansas by 17 points, Iowa State has won 20-plus games in four consecutive seasons, which is the longest such streak in school history.
Both Georges Niang and Monte Morris are playing really well and the Cyclones have shown the perseverance to overcome double-digit deficits in five consecutive games. Playing as well as almost any team in the country this month, the Cyclones move on to the Championship Game.
NCAA Championship Game(1) Kentucky over (3) Iowa State
If Hoiberg pulled off the upset over the Wildcats, The Mayor would become The King (of Ames, IA). Last year, the Cyclones were knocked out of the tournament by the UConn Huskies, the eventual champions, and they once again get knocked out by the tournament winner. As noted earlier, this would be their first Final Four appearance since 1944, but they lost their first game in that tournament so this would be the furthest any Iowa State team has gone in the tournament.
Although Alex Poythress has been out with a torn ACL, the Wildcats have seven other players that are averaging 20-plus minutes per game, but none of them play more than 26 minutes per game, on average. In addition, Dakari Johnson, who plays 16.9 MPG, is a possible first-round pick in the 2015 NBA Draft.
As noted previously, the talent and depth is remarkable, but their unselfishness is just as impressive. The Wildcats have only two players averaging double digits -- Aaron Harrison (11.3/G) and Devin Booker (10.5/G). In addition, Harrison leads the team in shot attempts, by a wide margin, but he's averaging only 9.74 attempts per game.
Final score prediction: Kentucky 74, Iowa State 61
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