Royalty won again in the NCAA tournament last night, as Duke claimed another basketball title for legendary coach Mike Kryzewski, his fifth ring.
It wasn’t easy, this come from behind victory over the Wisconsin Badgers, but it was typical old school basketball by the Devils. They turned the corner with defense, and came back thanks to outside shots and gutsy drives to the basket.
The things that made Wisconsin so good this year, went away from them in the final 15-minutes of the season. Their vaunted three point shots disappeared, and 7-foot-center Frank Kaminsky was pushed far away from his spot on the block, and he hit just 1-basket over the final 15-minutes.
It was a Wisconsin team that had scoring spurts of (9-2) early and then (16-6) late, and then had its offense go MIA at the end. Was it them, or was it the enemy wearing white?
The young guys saved old school Duke. Freshmen guards Tyus Jones and Grayson Allen went wild in the second half. Allen, a bruiser of a big guard, fired away at will, reeling off 6-points in a row when things looked darkest for Duke. Then Jones, his fellow rookie running mate, slashed to the basket, stood outfront and buried shots, and put 19-points more in the books in the final 20-minutes to help the Devils pull away.
If you would have said before the game, Duke would go 26-minutes without a basket from 6-11 Jahlil Okafor, you would have thought they would have lost. If you had said Okafor and Justise Winslow would be bench-ridden by personal fouls, you would not have thought it possible the ACC team would be there at the end to put on the championship shirts and hats.
But the kids rallied the team back when the bigs got in trouble, and Coach K’s relentless defense just would not back down, in helping the team climb up the hill, and out of the hole they were in.
Wisconsin took out (38-0) Kentucky, but the things that got them the victory, were never really part of the Monday night game. Maybe fatigue. Maybe just too much Blue Devil, but over the final 20-minutes, Wisconsin looked like Michigan State looked in the semi-final game on Saturday, just ordinary.
Nothing to be ashamed of though, a 34-win season in spectacular, and the Badgers did it with a very different type of kid, not many McDonald All Americans.
Duke has always been class. Coach K has always been great. And for a program that got knocked out of the tourney a year ago, and lost a game to somebody called Mercer, this was quite a turnaround..
They grew together, peaked at the right time, and did all the right things at the end. Raise the trophy, cut the nets down, and prepare to party at the Cameron Indoor Arena.
Duke did it. The best team won.