The 1976 Indiana Hoosiers can rest easy. They’re still the last men’s college basketball team to go undefeated in a season. The Wisconsin Badgers made sure of that when it took down the Kentucky Wildcats, prematurely ending Kentucky’s bid to go 40-0 this season. With the win, the Badgers move on to the national championship game where it will face the Duke Blue Devils, which beat the Michigan State Spartans for a chance to win its fifth national title and first since 2010.
If you’re having a difficult time picking between these two teams, don’t be alarmed because you’re not alone. Sportsbooks seem to be in a similar conundrum as the spread opened at pick ‘em. No favorites here, fellas; just two evenly matched teams playing for the biggest prize in men’s college basketball.
The two teams did meet during the regular season in a game that Duke won handily, 80-70, despite being 4.5-point underdogs. But the make-up of both teams have drastically changed since that early December 2014 encounter. Wisconsin point guard Traevon Jackson started at point guard in that game but has since been replaced in the starting lineup by Bronson Koenig. Likewise, Duke started Amile Jefferson in that game, but he’s now coming off the bench. Whether these lineup changes play any part in the title game is still unclear, but it does provide a little bit of fodder as we draw closer to the game.
As for the Wildcats, well, their run to history abruptly ended against a Badgers team that proved its worth as a fellow number 1 seed. It’s an ignominious exit for a team many consider was a lock to win the national title when the tournament began. But don’t weep for the Wildcats because a lot of people are probably relieved that they’ve been eliminated.
Sportsbooks, for one, let out a sigh of relief when Kentucky was booted out. Of the four teams in the Final Four, books stood to lose the most had the Wildcats won the tournament. That doesn’t mean everyone’s free and clear of potential losses because Duke and Wisconsin were given some juicy odds – 8/1 and 12/1, respectively – at the start of the tournament. Anybody who put money down on the Blue Devils and the Badgers are looking at huge winnings should their teams win the tournament.
At the very least, it would be a fitting ending to a tournament that certainly hasn’t lacked in drama.