Since 1939 the NCAA has been crowning college basketball National Champions. And over the past couple decades the popularity of the Final Four and National Championship have continued to grow to be among the most anticipated and watched times of the year in sports.
Each year the “madness” in March Madness increases, and this year was no exception. In fact, it’s only about to continue as Kentucky strives to make history, Wisconsin works towards a massive upset, Coach K looks to add another national title to Duke’s resume and Michigan State proves why you should never underestimate the underdog.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Games Are in Indianapolis, Indiana
Unlike Sir Charles says in the Capital One commercial, this year’s Final Four games are back in Indianapolis, Indiana.
While this is the seventh time Indianapolis is playing host to the Final Four, this is just the second time it’s being held at Lucas Oil Stadium, which is home to the Colts NFL team. The last time it was in Lucas Oil was 2010 – Duke defeated Butler to win the national title.
Prior to Lucas Oil Stadium, the first venue in Indianapolis was Market Square Arena for the 1980 tournament, and then it was the RCA Dome in 1991, 1997, 2000 and 2006.
2. Three of the Four Teams Are No. 1 Seeds
This year has three No. 1 seeds – Kentucky from the Midwest region, Wisconsin from the West and Duke from the South. Michigan State rounds out the fourth contender as a No. 7 seed coming out of the East region.
It is just the fifth time in NCAA Tournament history that at least three No. 1 seeds reached the Final Four. The only time all four teams were No. 1 seeds was in 2008 – they were Memphis, UCLA, Kansas and North Carolina.
And this year is also just the third-straight season one conference has had two teams in the Final Four as both Wisconsin and Michigan State come from the Big Ten.
Here’s the schedule:
Saturday, April 4
Game: No. 1 Duke vs. No. 7 Michigan State
Final Score: Duke 81, Michigan State 61
Game: No. 1 Kentucky vs. No. 1 Wisconsin
Final Score: Wisconsin 71, Kentucky 64
Monday, April 6
Game: Teams No. 1 Wisconsin vs. No. 1 Duke
Time & Channel: 9:18 p.m. Eastern, CBS
Announcers: Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery and Tracy Wolfson
3. Mike Krzyzewski Is the Only Hall of Fame Coach in the Final Four
While the Final Four is compiled of storied programs and decorated and successful coaches, Duke is the only team with a Hall of Fame coach at the helm.
Mike Krzyzewski – aka Coach K – was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2001 and then again in 2010 with the U.S. Men’s Olympic Gold Medal team – also known as the “Dream Team.” In 2006, he was inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame and in 2009 Coach K was inducted into the United States Olympic Hall of Fame.
His four national titles tie him for second overall – alongside Adolph Rupp – and with this being his 12th Final Four appearance, he ties legendary coach John Wooden for the most in history.
While the 68-year-old coach of the Blue Devils is the only current hall of famer, Kentucky’s John Calipari and Wisconsin’s Bo Ryan might be joining him as both were nominated earlier this season as Naismith candidates.
I’m gonna tell you this: My mission now is, I think it’s a crime that Tom Izzo’s not nominated for the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2016. This year, (Wisconsin’s) Bo Ryan and (Kentucky’s) John Calipari have been nominated, they find out this weekend. There is no way, with seven Final Fours, a national championship and Big Ten titles, and the way he handles himself as a person, Tom Izzo is a Hall of Famer.
4. Kentucky Is in the Pursuit of the First Perfect Season Since 1976
For the fourth time in the last five seasons, Kentucky is in the Final Four. This is the program’s 17th trip to the Final Four, which ties them for second all-time with UCLA and one appearance shy of North Carolina’s 18.
While a National Championship would be Kentucky’s first since 2012 and the second since Calipari took the helm in 2009, the Wildcats are in pursuit of a greater accomplishment – a completely perfect season.
UK is looking to reach a 40-0 record capped off with a National Championship title and the first completely perfect season since Bob Knight and the Indiana Hoosiers did it in 1976. If the Wildcats succeed, they would be the eighth team in NCAA history to accomplish such a feat. Kentucky would join San Francisco, North Carolina, UCLA (four times) and Indiana.
5. Kentucky and Wisconsin Are in a Rematch From Last Year
For the second consecutive year, John Calipari and his Wildcats squad will matchup against the Badgers.
This will be Wisconsin’s third-straight repeat matchup from last March as the Badgers routed No. 8 Oregon and No. 2 Arizona to set the stage for a rematch against Kentucky.
While this season has some new faces, there are plenty of returners, especially in regards to Wisconsin, vying for revenge and a shot at the national title. It will be a grueling battle between No. 1 seeds, both equipped with 7-footers and talent some teams only dream of having. And of course, the rematch from a year ago heightens the stakes that much more.