As you probably already know if you are in any way into college sports, the NCAA Division I men’s basketball national championship took place last night, Monday, April 6. The two teams to make it to the final were the Wisconsin Badgers and Duke Blue Devils. This was a great game to watch and neither team seemed to sustain a lead for long. In the end, though, Duke pulled out the victory, 68-63. But let’s relive the final game of the college basketball season.
Both of these teams coming in had been highly touted throughout the season and had high quality talent on their respective rosters. Wisconsin has the likes of Naismith winner senior forward Frank Kaminsky and junior forward Sam Dekker along with a deep team who doesn’t turn the ball over and refuses to foul (until this game). Duke on the other hand has a trio of outstanding freshmen in forward Justise Winslow, center Jahlil Okafor and guard Tyus Jones. Freshman guard Grayson Allen also stepped up big for Duke in the title game with 16 points off of the bench. Duke was the slight favorite in my opinion, but these teams were definitely evenly matched.
These two had met earlier back in December in the Big Ten/ACC challenge, with Duke prevailing 80-70. That game was close as well, but the teams were not yet proven and both sides were continuing to grow. Jones scored 22 points in the win and came to play again in the title game, dropping 23 points and five rebounds. Even with all of this said, I felt that Wisconsin had a great shot to win the title.
Throughout the game, there were 13 lead changes in the first half, with the score appropriately tied at 31-31 at halftime. Wisconsin had fought off Duke’s early attempts to take over the game and really played well in the first half, rarely fouling as well. Kaminsky and sophomore forward Nigel Hayes kept Wisconsin in the game with solid defense and nailing shots when they needed to. But Duke continued to pour on the pressure, erasing Wisconsin’s lead late in the first half to tie the game. At halftime, neither team necessarily had the edge, although foul trouble for Duke would play a key role later in the game.
The second half brought interesting play from both sides. Kaminsky was owning Okafor offensively throughout the game and this trend continued, resulting in Okafor picking up his third and fourth fouls. Head coach of Duke Mike Krzyzewski had to work around this, using his bench proficiently with role players Allen, junior forward Amile Jefferson and junior center Marshall Plumlee. Head coach of Wisconsin Bo Ryan also was able to efficiently use his bench with key contributions from seniors forward Duje Dukan and guard Traevon Jackson. Duke seemed to struggle with Wisconsin even gaining a nine point advantage at one point in the second half. But Wisconsin kept Duke in the game by uncharacteristically fouling and failing to rebound at times. Wisconsin just seemed to run out of gas down the stretch, instead of extending their lead.
Even with Kaminsky scoring 21 points and gaining 12 rebounds, Wisconsin found themselves in trouble with fouls and Dekker never able to set into the game, shooting 0-6 from three-point range. Allen would continue to drive, Okafor would come up big in key moments, and Jones went off. All of this amounted to a final push from Wisconsin coming up short, resulting for Duke and the Blue Devil’s fifth national title, tying them with North Carolina and Indiana at third all-time.
Coach Krzyzewski, or Coach K as he’s also known, also won his fifth national title. This brings him to second all-time leaving him behind the legendary John Wooden. Coach K now has 1,018 wins, further boosting his reputation as one of the greatest coaches ever. This is his third title in Indianapolis, the other two coming in 1991 and 2010. His titles in 1991, 1992, 2001, 2010 and 2015 show how dominant of a program he has run at Duke for the past 35 years. He is an icon in college basketball and is deservedly already in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. There may never be another coach like him, with his ability to make in-game adjustments and making changes to his team as he sees fit. Coach K is a living legend, and this national championship further proves that.