The Duke Blue Devils and Wisconsin Badgers are the two teams still standing in the 2015 NCAA men's basketball tournament, and Bleacher Report's college basketball experts are back for one final prediction.
When these two teams battled back on Dec. 3, just about everyone talked up the game as a potential preview of the national championship.
Who knew it would actually happen?
Better yet, who knows what will transpire in the rematch?
We've got a full breakdown of everything you need to know for the title game, but this is more of the TL;DR version with quick thoughts from each of our experts.
Last year, we all picked Kentucky to beat Connecticut. Thus, it is with sincerest apologies to the Badgers that we all pick Wisconsin to win Monday night.
Duke vs. Wisconsin
When: Monday, 9:18 p.m. ET
I can't remember a year when I was this excited about an NCAA title game. Maybe 2008, when Kansas' Mario Chalmers forced overtime with a three-pointer in the waning seconds and gave the Jayhawks enough momentum to eventually surge past Memphis.
That game lived up to its billing—and this one should, too.
So much is made about Duke's three standout freshmen, and rightfully so. And, yes, I realize the Blue Devils topped Wisconsin 80-70—in Madison, no less—back on Dec. 3. But Duke shot 65.2 percent in that game. I just can't see that happening again. Also, Badgers standout Sam Dekker was slowed by a nagging ankle injury that limited him to five points. Dekker is averaging 20.6 points in the NCAA tournament. I expect him to have a big game.
As much as I like Duke's team—check that, I love Duke's team—I'm siding with Wisconsin in Monday's title game. The best teams in March are usually the hungriest teams, squads filled with juniors and seniors who have felt the sting of a postseason loss and know what it takes to prevent one from happening again. Players who have faced adversity in their careers and have learned how to flourish in those moments.
The Badgers have all of those qualities, and it will pay off for them Monday when it matters most.
At a certain point, we have to stop trying to explain the greatness of Wisconsin and just sit back and enjoy the show.
And, frankly, that point was a little over a month ago.
The Badgers hit a bit of a late February swoon—as most great teams seem to do for some strange reason. They struggled with Penn State and Minnesota before losing to Maryland.
Something snapped in that loss to the Terrapins, though. Since the beginning of March, Wisconsin has scored 831 points in 655 possessions for an incredible 1.27 points per possession.
Justise Winslow and Jahlil Okafor have been great, but Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky have been downright ridiculous. The loss to Kentucky in the 2014 Final Four is what inspired those great Badgers to come back for another year, but beating Kentucky in the 2015 Final Four isn't the end of their journey.
The Badgers already went through North Carolina, Arizona and Kentucky. If and when they do beat Duke, it would put a nice little bow on perhaps the greatest stretch of four consecutive wins in NCAA history. If you'll recall, Kentucky was No. 1, Arizona was No. 2, Duke was No. 4 and North Carolina was No. 6 in the AP preseason poll.
In completing the job, Kaminsky finishes his career with a bang, scoring 28 points in a four-point win over the Blue Devils.
Back in 1991, Duke won what most viewed as the true national title game by knocking off undefeated UNLV in the national semis.
Mike Krzyzewski said when his team returned to the hotel that night, Duke's fans were delirious.
"They didn't think we would beat Vegas," Krzyzewski said Sunday. "We were the ones who thought we could beat Vegas."
A similar scene played out in Indy on Saturday night. Wisconsin won the game that felt like a national championship and returned to its hotel and a delirious fanbase.
The challenge of playing a game two days later is a great one. But just like the Blue Devils pulled it together and played a splendid title game in the win over Kansas in 1991, the Badgers have the poise and experience to do the same. They also have a healthy Sam Dekker, who has been the best player in this NCAA tournament and played with a bum ankle back in the Dec. 3 loss to Duke in Madison.
This is a game with two great offenses coached by two great tacticians. But with Dekker at full strength, Bo Ryan has the better chess pieces to work with and will pull off one of the most impressive back-to-back wins in the history of the tournament.