Duke University has always been one of the top teams in basketball, and on Monday night proved why as they snagged another national championship away from underdog Butler University.
With many people vying for the cinderella team from Indiana to rise up and push the giant off their mountain, Butler pushed hard and played with intensity.
But in the end, Duke overcame Butler 61-59.
The game, though, is what was most impressive.
This is Duke’s head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s fourth national championship. His record of winning that game now stands at 4 of 6. The last time Duke won was in 2001.
Coach K also has a 77-22 record of wins and losses in the tournament, which leaves him with the most wins in the NCAA tourney.
Coach K is also now tied for 2nd in most wins overall in the tournament with Adolph Rupp. The only other coach that is probably one of the best coaches of all time is John Wooden.
Wooden’s UCLA team won 10 national championships in 27 years. Ten in 27 years. Amazing. That is an about 37% winning streak.
But last night, it was the men on the court that fought hard to prove who deserved to win.
That small Indiana college didn’t get rolled over by Duke. In fact, there were 15 lead changes throughout the game and five ties. The largest point lead all game was only by six.
This was also the first time since 1989 that a national championship game was decided by two points or less.
At halftime, the Bulldogs trailed the BlueDevils 33-32.
When they came back for the second half, the game got kicked up a tempo.
Butler played great defense and limited the ‘big three’ (Jon Scheyer, Kyler Singler and Nolan Smith) in their points; notably held Scheyer to only one shot beyond the 3-point range.
Butler played terrific, especially considering they only shot for 34%. But they also turned 14 offensive rebounds into 13-points.
They turned 14 Duke turnovers into 12-points.
And they gave the big powerhouse of Duke a run for their money; especially with that last attempt by Gordon Hayward who shot from about midcourt with :05 seconds left—only to have the ball hit the rim and bounce off.
As the ball fell away from the basket, many hearts in Indiana and around the country who were routing for the underdog fell with it.
But it was the Blue Devils and their fans in Durham, NC who earned the win and took the trophy.
The big three, especially Singler, controlled the ball for the devils. Singler was named Most Outstanding Player of the game with 19 points. Singler also held back Hayward 2-11 with his many blocks on the player from Butler.
Brian Zoubek, the montrous senior center for Duke, also stood out in blue. He averages about 10 rebounds a game. Duke had 11 offensive rebounds for 11 points last night, a lot resulting from Zoubek.
They also out rebounded Butler 20-11 in the second half which was a big factor to the win.
Nolan Smith, one of the big three, now joins three other father-son national championship winners. In 1989, his father won with Louisville; other father-son winners are Scott and Sean May, Henry and Mike Bibby, and Marques and Kris Johnson.
In their press conference after the game, Coach K was joined by the big three and Z. Coach K, a classy and good sport (win or loss) praised the efforts by Butler, and claimed out of all the games they played in his 30 years, this was the toughest of them all.
Many hoped for a movie-esq win (with Butler on top) especially if Hayward had made that buzzer beating shot–a shot, if made, would have been one of the best game winning shots probablay in the history of college basketball.
But even though Duke won, Coach K said “those kids from Butler had dreams, but so do these boys” as he gestured to his team. And he is right.
Boys from around the country will look at this game to inspire them despite who they were routing for.
The infamous Dick Vitale last night put it best.
“Chase your dreams. Believe. And good things will happen.”