By Josh Wiggins
PSDC March Madness Contributor
March Madness has been absolutely tremendous this year. Sure, we really didn’t have a true Cinderella to captivate us, but the quality and competitiveness of basketball more than made up for that. After 66 games, there are only two teams left, two teams doing everything they can to win for their schools, their fans, and themselves.
Duke and Wisconsin have earned their way to this point and proven that they have what it takes to be a champion. Both of them started this tourney with a No. 1 seed based on what they did all season long; however, Kentucky and Villanova did the same thing. That was the easy part, the thing that four teams do every year.
The hard part was winning five games in a row, five games that got harder and harder as they moved forward. As their opponents got better, the spotlight grew brighter. It’s easy to say you are taking it one game at a time, but that’s just not the case with these teams. As soon as the brackets were released, Wisconsin and Duke undoubtedly visualized their path to the championship.
When Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker came back to Wisconsin, the only acceptable outcome was to be here. After losing to Kentucky in the Final Four last year, they knew the Wildcats would be waiting for them in the same spot, and they were ready.
When you are one of the most storied programs in all of college basketball, success is a requirement. When you are led by one of the most successful coaches of all time, winning games in the tournament is expected. When you also have the most talented freshman, if not the most talented player in this tournament, getting to this point is the bar for success.
I’m not saying that making it to the championship was easy or guaranteed for either of these teams. Not by any stretch. But for these two teams, anything less would be deemed a failure. Kaminsky and Dekker would have nothing to show for their return. Coach K and Jahlil Okafor would have to hear the same criticism of Duke underachieving when it counts.
Kentucky was considered the most talented team all season long, and with good reason. Most experts predicted that the Wildcats would win it all, going undefeated in the process. However, that narrative didn’t work for these two teams. Wisconsin and Duke knew they had the talent, the coaching, and the desire to be the best, and when it mattered, they did just that.
There are two teams left in this tournament, both on a mission to win this game and the championship. This campaign started long before March for these programs, but it all culminates in a single matchup. For one of them, it will be a story of success and overwhelming joy. For the other, one of heartbreaking defeat.
One thing is for sure. This story will have one hell of an ending.
Follow Josh on Twitter: @JoshuaLWiggins