Last night's championship game between Duke and Butler was one of the greatest games of basketball I have ever seen. From tip off, until that final shot by Butler's Gordan Hayward, basketball fans were treated to a masterpiece.
It was like watching a heavyweight fight. Both teams going back and forth. Just when it looked like one team was about to take control, the momentum was pushed the other way. It was only fitting that this game would come down to a last second shot.
Hayward almost put Butler ahead with just over 3 seconds to go but his shot which was contested by Duke's Brian Zoubek barely missed. Zoubek got the rebound and was then fouled. Zoubek hit one of two free throws. Then it Hayward raced down the court and heaved a half-court shot that barely missed off the backboard.
Duke won 61-59 to claim their fourth National Title as a school. It was also the fourth title for Coach K, which ties him for second all time along with Adolph Rupp (surpassing Coach K's college coach and mentor, the legendary Bobby Knight).
Kyle Singler was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player. Duke's big 3 of Singler, John Scheyer, and Nolan Smith all played great. But the key to Duke's run was the little things that the role players like Zoubek, Lance Thomas and the Plumlee brothers did.
More than anything this was a great game by two great teams. Duke needed their A game to beat Butler. The Bulldogs proved they belonged with college basketball's elite. Butler played their A game with great athleticism, defense, hustle, and fundamental basketball.
Butler's two sophomore guards Shelvin Mack and Ronald Nored proved they could play with and play better than Duke's star guards Scheyer and Smith.
Butler's stud big man Matt Howard got in early foul trouble but senior Avery Jukes stepped up to provide 10 points in the first half. This was how the Bulldgos did it the whole year. One man goes down and the others just come in and play basketball without losing a beat. That was what happened when Shelvin mack got hurt in Butler's win over Michigan St. in the Final 4 game Saturday night.
The atmosphere of Lucas Oil Stadium added another level to this incredible game. It was the hometown Bulter fans against the Duke's Cameron Crazies. Neither fan base ever got out of it nor did either fan base ever have a reason to be comfortable with a lead. It was great from start to finish.
It was pretty much the opposite of last year's joke of a National Title game between UNC and Michigan St. College basketball needed this to be a great game. The fans needed this to be a great game and I needed this to be a great game. Thank God we had a great game.