The worst thing about March Madness is at some point it has to end. It finally did Monday night and I hated to see it go. The Duke-Butler Championship game was maybe the greatest ever.
Duke won 61-59 and yes it was as close as the score indicated. Butler’s Gordon Hayward had two shots to win it and they both hit the rim. One was a fade away jumper with 3.9 seconds left and after Duke’s Brian Zoubek missed a free throw intentionally, Hayward launched one from half court that nearly banked in off the backboard.
Hayward’s fall away with just over three seconds left may have looked awkward but it was a good shot. He’s Butler’s best player and he got it off…it was just a little long. Give credit to Kyle Singler for staying right with him.
Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski called it the greatest of all the title games he’s coached in. It was his fourth national championship and his eighth appearance in the title game. He’s 4-4 in the big game.
Coach K joins John Wooden (10) and Adolph Rupp (4) as the only coach to win at least 4 championships.
It was a big contrast in experience. Brad Stevens is in his third year as the head coach at Butler while Krzyzewski just completed year number 30 at Duke. Krzyzewski, who could one day have the University named after him, has had offers to leave but was only tempted once. In 2004 the Lakers offered him 40 million deal over 5 years. Kobe Bryant even made a personal pitch to get him to come to LA but Krzyzewski chose his love of Duke over the NBA- wise decision.
Stevens was 3 years old when Krzyzewski took over at Duke.
Singler, who has been Duke’s bread and butter all year, was named the MOP (Most Outstanding Player) in the Final Four. He had 19 points and 9 rebounds in the championship contest.
Zoubek, who Krzyzewski called the key to the victory, played the last 9:40 of the game with 4 fouls.
I don’t agree with Bobby Knight all the time. But he hit the nail on the head when he called the one year in college rule ‘garbage” in an interview with ESPN following the game. He wasn’t finished there. He called it the worst blemish in the history of the NCAA which was originally established in 1939.
Butler was being called “David” to Duke’s “Goliath” prior to the game. But in reality there wasn’t that much of a discrepancy. Butler was a number 5 seed compared to Duke’s number 1 and Butler (28-4) actually had a better record than Duke (29-5) coming into the tournament.
Stevens was asked if his team would need to play as well as Villanova did in 1985 in its shocking upset over Georgetown. Stevens said yes if we shoot 78 percent like Villanova did we should win. Butler fell a little short. The Bulldogs shot just 34 percent from the field.
Duke’s Nolan Smith is the son of the late Derek Smith, who won an NCAA championship with Louisville in 1980. The Smiths are only the third father-son team to win the national championship in basketball joining Sean May (North Carolina 2005) and Scott May (Indiana 1976) and Mike Bibby (Arizona 1997) and Henry Bibby (UCLA 1971, ’72, ’73).
Butler had four players in double figures in the game but nobody scored more than 12.
Coach K is going to receive another NBA offer in the next couple of days. The New Jersey Nets are expected to tempt him with a contract that could pay him between 12 and 15 million per year. He will turn that one down too.
Butler should be in the preseason top 10 again in 2011. The Bulldogs lose only 2 seniors next year and they both played limited minutes. Everybody else is back.
This was the first title game to be decided by 2 points or less since 1989 when Michigan beat Seton Hall 80-79 in overtime.
I’ll miss you March Madness. I Can’t wait until next year.
That’s my principle.
Tim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.