Not done yet: Wisconsin to take on Duke in final test before it can be crowned champion

first_imgINDIANAPOLIS – The University of Wisconsin is a school rich with tradition, and one of those traditions is to never be satisfied, especially in athletics.When the football team scores, the students chant, “we want more.” When the men’s hockey team scores, Badger hockey super fan Phil Dzick leads the students in chanting, “we want more.”The Wisconsin men’s basketball team knocked off the then-undefeated Kentucky Wildcats in Saturday’s national semifinal in what was arguably the biggest victory in the program’s history, and while the team was able to celebrate the historic victory, the journey is not over.They want more.“We know we’ve got 40 more, as I’ve said a thousand times,” Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan said. “But we know we got some work to do.”To be exact, the Badgers (36-3) want one more, as on Monday night, UW, for just the second time in school history, will play in the national championship game. It will take on the Duke Blue Devils (34-4) in a rematch of December’s matchup on Monday, just one win away from a national title.The two squads are already familiar with each other, as they met back in December at the Kohl Center as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Duke rode freshman guard Tyus Jones and a hot shooting night to a 80-70 victory, but the expectation this time around is that the flow of the game will be much different.In that December outing, Wisconsin junior forward Sam Dekker was still nursing an ankle injury he suffered in the preseason and had just five points on 2-for-5 shooting in 24 minutes. Dekker’s counterpart, Duke freshman forward Justise Winslow, also had just five points on 2-for-6 shooting in 32 minutes.Now, in April, the two have put any struggles behind them and are playing their best basketball of the season.Through the first five games of the tournament, Dekker is scoring an average of 20.6 points and grabbing 5.0 rebounds per game while shooting an astounding 61 percent from the field and 50 percent from behind the arc. Winslow is close behind, averaging 15.0 points and 9.4 rebounds per game while shooting 54 percent from the field and 58 percent from three.Now, as the players plan to match up once again, both look to build on their strong play as of late and avenge their poor performances in December.“I don’t even know how many minutes I played in that (Duke) game but it’s not nearly as many as I do now,” Dekker said. “I was playing a different style and still trying to get my confidence back. I was maybe second guessing some things and put myself in a bad position.”Dekker is also well aware that Winslow is not the same player they saw in Madison that night.“Winslow is obviously a great defender but it shouldn’t matter who is in front of me,” Dekker said. “I still expect myself to play well. I just need to play up to my potential in that game and I’m confident I can do it.”However, the play of Dekker and Winslow are not the only changes this time around. In that first matchup, it was a battle of the starting point guards with senior guard Traevon Jackson leading the way for the Badgers with 25 points and Jones scoring 22 for Duke.Now, there is a change of scenery in the UW backcourt, as Jackson’s foot injury that kept him sidelined for over two months paved the way for sophomore guard Bronson Koenig to take over as the team’s starting point guard.Koenig’s experience and confidence have him ready to take on the challenge of going up against Duke’s talented backcourt of Jones and senior Quinn Cook, and he has his teammates, especially Jackson, to thank for that.“The upper classmen did a really good job of putting their trust in me,” Koenig said. “I’m really thankful for guys like Jackson for just helping me out along the way to help me develop into the player that I am now.”Duke will also be without junior guard Rasheed Sulaimon, who scored 14 off the bench in the last outing, in the backcourt for this game, as he was dismissed at the end of January for violating team rules.Nevertheless, the more things change, the more they stay the same, and this national championship matchup will once again feature two of the country’s best players in senior forward Frank Kaminsky and freshman forward Jahlil Okafor.Not much has changed for either of these players since the previous matchup. Both display an array of moves on the offensive end, hitting defenders with spin moves, a quick first step and impeccable touch around the rim.But most importantly, both are impossible to stop.“[Okafor] is a very good player,” Kaminsky said. “We knew that going into [the first] game. We knew he wasn’t going to be easy to stop. I don’t even know if you can stop him, but hope you can contain him a little bit.”The championship is set, and from the wings, to the backcourt, to the frontcourt, to even the coaches, this matchup is as even as it gets. Both teams will be fighting till the bitter end Monday night with one thing in mind.They want more.“This is make-or-break time right now. We don’t want to end the season on a loss,” Dekker said. “We thought last year was a good season but we still called it a failure because it ended with a loss. That’s something that we don’t want to do.”The Badgers and Blue Devils will play for all the marbles Monday night, with tip-off set for 8:15 central from Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.No. 1 Wisconsin (36-3)How they got here:Second round – defeated Coastal Carolina, 86-72Third round – defeated Oregon, 72-65Sweet 16 – defeated North Carolina, 79-72Elite Eight – defeated Arizona, 85-78Final Four – defeated Kentucky, 71-64Probable Starters: G – Bronson Koenig (6-4, 8.7 ppg), G – Josh Gasser (6-4, 6.8 ppg), F – Sam Dekker (6-9, 13.9 ppg), F – Nigel Hayes (6-8, 12.4 ppg), F – Frank Kaminsky (7-0, 18.7 ppg)Key Reserves: G – Traevon Jackson (6-3, 8.5 ppg), G – Zak Showalter (6-2, 2.1 ppg), F – Duje Dukan (6-10, 4.7 ppg)No. 1 Duke (34-4)How they got here:Second round – defeated Robert Morris, 85-56Third round – defeated San Diego State, 68-49Sweet 16 – defeated Utah, 63-57Elite Eight – defeated Gonzaga, 66-52Final Four – defeated Michigan State, 81-61Probable Starters: G – Quinn Cook (6-2, 15.6 ppg), G – Tyus Jones (6-1, 11.5 ppg), G – Matt Jones (6-5, 6.2 ppg), F – Justise Winslow (6-6, 12.7 ppg), F – Jahlil Okafor (6-11, 17.5 ppg)Key Reserves: G – Grayson Allen (6-4, 4.0 ppg), F – Amile Jefferson (6-9, 6.2 ppg), F – Marshall Plumlee (7-0, 2.3 ppg)Game VitalsWho: No. 1 Wisconsin vs. No. 1 DukeWhen: Monday, April 6, 8:15 p.m. CSTWhere: Lucas Oil Stadium (71,932); Indianapolis, IndianaTV: CBS (Jim Nantz, Bill Raftery, Grant Hill, Tracy Wolfson)last_img

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