If there’s to be a marquee NCAA Tournament rematch of this season’s opener — Duke’s 118-84 victory over Kentucky — it won’t happen until the national championship game.
According to a majority of the college basketball reporters polled by the Herald-Leader this week, that’s the most likely national title matchup April 8 in Minneapolis.
We asked 35 media members who cover college basketball — both locally and nationally — for their predictions heading into the NCAA Tournament, and 20 are picking both the Blue Devils and Wildcats to make it to the national championship game.
So, the good news for UK fans is there’s a lot of optimism around the Wildcats’ program heading into March Madness. The bad news: only four of the reporters we asked actually have Kentucky cutting down the nets in Minneapolis.
The Blue Devils are the clear favorite heading into this tournament. Only three of the media members in our poll had them getting beat before the Final Four, and 31 of 35 picked them to advance to the national title game. A total of 26 experts have Duke winning the championship.
Though the Cats are the No. 2 seed in the Midwest Region, most of our experts — both locally and nationally — picked them to make it past top-seeded North Carolina and into the Final Four.
Virginia and Tennessee received near-equal support in the South Region, and the West Region looks to be the most wide-open in this bracket, with Gonzaga, Michigan, Texas Tech and Florida State all getting multiple votes to make it to the Final Four.
Five different teams — Duke, UK, North Carolina, Virginia and Gonzaga — were selected as national champions by at least one of our experts. Here are the full Final Four predictions: