DUKE University may be the favorite to win this year’s US NCAA title, but at least three PBA stalwarts who had been there before like Wisconsin’s chances of winning its first ever championship since pre-World War II.
Meralco coach Norman Black, Bolts import Josh Davis, and Rain or Shine Fil-Am guard Gabe Norwood are all taking the side of the Badgers going to the championship game on Tuesday (Manila time) against Mike Krzyzewski and the Blue Devils at the Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
The Badgers ended the Kentucky Wildcats’ dream season after downing the previously unbeaten team of John Calipari in Saturday’s Final Four, 71-64. The team's first and only NCAA title came yet in 1941.
In contrast, the Blue Devils cruised to an 81-61 rout of Michigan State to set up the title showdown.
Norwood said Wisconsin is just playing great as a team at this moment, as seen from the way it bundled out the heavily-favored Wildcats.
“Duke is gonna be the favorite, with Coach K (Mike Krzyzewski ) having that kind of prestige,” said the Rain or Shine guard, who suited up for George Mason University team that reached the Final Four in the 2006 NCAA Tournament.
“But I’m going with Wisconsin. I don’t know why. I can’t figure it out, but it’s my gut feel,” he added. “I just like the way Wisconsin is playing as a unit.”
Black has no doubt the Badgers will go this far, picking them to become champions as early as four months ago.
“I picked them to win the championship way back in December. I watched them in the Big Ten games on TV,” said the multi-titled coach, an alumnus of St. Joseph’s College in Pennsylvania, NCAA Division I school (Atlantic 10).
“You know they’re not very deep, they play about 8 to 9 players. I just found them to be exceptional. The best team I’ve ever seen with a lot of white guys to be honest you.”
Black stressed the Badgers are the kind of team capable of challenging for the title.
“I just like their team. I like (Sam) Dekker, I like the kid that won Player of the Year (Frank Kaminsky). They have good shooters. All of them can shoot threes, and you have to shoot the basketball well for you to win the championship,” said the Meralco coach.
“I just like the way they play. I have high respect for their coach (Bo Ryan). He’s always been good, he hadn’t won a championship but his team has been good since time immemorial as far as I can remember. I think they’ll win.”
Davis initially was rooting for the Wildcats and was shocked to learn when informed about Kentucky’s downfall, having failed to watch the game as he geared up for Game Two of the Commissioner’s Cup semifinals against the Elasto Painters.
Although he sees the Duke-Wisconsin game as a competitive one, Davis said he favors the Badgers to emerge on top.
“That’s actually a good match-up, but I think Wisconsin might be able to win one,” said one of the NCAA’s top rebounders while playing for Tulane.
As for Kentucky, seeking to become the first team to win the championship unbeaten since Indiana in 1976, its shot for the record book just wasn’t meant to be.
“38-1 is not bad. Its’ just unfortunate coz that’s the way the NCAA is played. You have to be very good every night in the tournament. They (Wildcats) just ran into a team that is playing very well right now. From what I have seen I don’t think they played their best game either," said Norwood.
Added Black, “Let’s face it, they had a great year and a good run. But they just came up a little bit short. Take nothing against them for what they accomplished.”