Back in November, when the Champions Classic in Indianapolis was billed as a possible preview of the 2015 Final Four in Indianapolis, they weren't kidding.
Sub Wisconsin for Kansas and the two Nov. 18 matchups at Bankers Life Fieldhouse are the two matchups April 4 when Duke plays Michigan State and Wisconsin plays Kentucky at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Five months ago, Duke beat Michigan State 81-71 as the freshman trio of Jahlil Okafor (17), Tyus Jones (17) and Justise Winslow (15) combined for 49 points in just their third college game.
In the second game that night, Kentucky crushed Kansas 72-40, a stunning preview of what was ahead for a team now 38-0, the first undefeated team to reach the Final Four since UNLV in 1991.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Lexington Herald-Leader
The real reference point, however, happened 12 months ago when with five seconds left, Aaron Harrison's three-pointer Kentucky beat Wisconsin 74-73 in last year's Final Four in Arlington, Texas.
Duke beat Gonzaga 66-52 in the finals of the West Regional on Sunday earning Mike Krzyzewski his 12th Final Four, tying the late UCLA legend John Wooden at the top of the leader board.
Duke has won 16 of its last 17 games with the only loss coming against Notre Dame, 74-64 in the ACC Tournament. Kentucky fans got a scary look at the Irish talents Saturday in Cleveland.
It's the seventh Final Four for Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo and possibly his most unlikely. The Spartans were 15-8 after a home loss to Illinois on Feb. 7. They finished the regular season in a three-way tie for third in the Big 10, but started playing their best basketball in the post-season.
Peaking in March is an Izzo staple, of course. The 76-70 overtime triumph over Louisville in the East Region final was Michigan State's eighth win in its last nine games. In that one loss, MSU took Wisconsin to overtime in the Big 10 Tournament before losing 80-69.
Speaking of Wisconsin, it's the second straight Final Four for the 67-year-old Bo Ryan, still combative after all these years. When studio analyst Kenny Smith made reference to past Wisconsin teams scoring "on the other side of the 50s" during a halftime interview Sunday, Ryan quickly accused the former North Carolina guard of not doing his homework.
Ryan's club has lost one game since Jan. 11, and that was a 59-53 decision at Maryland on Feb. 24. Faced with the unenviable task of beating Arizona in back-to-back years in the West Region final, Frank Kaminsky scored 29 points and Sam Dekker added 27 on Saturday for an 85-78 win to earn a second consecutive shot at Kentucky.
It's the sixth Final Four for Kentucky Coach John Calipari, including a ridiculous four in the past five years. Kentucky hasn't lost a game since last year's Final Four, when it fell to Connecticut in the 2014 national title game. Thirty-eight down, two to go.
Getting this far wasn't easy, however. Calipari's club had to overcome a six-point deficit with six minutes left to edge Notre Dame 68-66 in Saturday's Midwest Region final.
It won't be any easier this Saturday. UK faces a Wisconsin team ranked No. 1 in the nation in offensive efficiency, according to Ken Pomeroy's advanced statistics. But the Cats found a way to stop Notre Dame's precision offense when they needed stops the most, and the guess here is they will do the same against the Badgers.
As for the first game, like UConn a year ago, Michigan State has caught fire at the right time. The Spartans didn't have the horsepower to beat Duke in November, however, and it says here the outcome won't change Saturday.
That would set up a true Champions Classic in Monday night's final: Kentucky vs. Duke.
There can be only one champion, however, and the choice here is the one pursuing 40-0.