Memories were made in Indianapolis once again as a special Duke team won the National Championship with a 68-63 win over Wisconsin. The win was Mike Krzyzewski's fifth national title which ties him for second place with Kentucky's Adolph Rupp.
The Blue Devils finished the season with a 35-4 record and they are now 10-4 in the state of Indiana. Duke finished the season atop the world, thanks to a terrific second half effort by freshman Tyus Jones. Jones scored 19 second half points finishing the game with 23.
He was helped by Grayson Allen who had his best game of his young life. Allen tallied 16 points which was good for his fifth double-figure scoring game of the season. The effort helped him to be named to the All Tournament team along with teammate Justise Winslow. The aforementioned Jones was named the Final Four's Most Outstanding Player.
The game was close throughout with 16 lead changes but Duke took over the game after trailing by 9 points with 13:22 to go. Duke then went on to out score the Badgers 29-15 utilizing their lock down defense which propelled them to another victory. Every second half point was scored by a freshman and it was clear that no team used first year players better than Duke this season.
We'll have more from this game a bit later. Until then be sure to check out our social media outlets on Twitter and our Facebook Group.
Back in 2010, I had one of the most wonderful experiences in my life. At that time I witnessed Duke win its last National Title up close and personal. Now, I return to the same Lucas Oil Stadium where I anxiously another golden opportunity for the Duke Blue Devils.
Magic seasons are few and far between. It takes luck, it takes fortitude and in the Blue Devils case togetherness. I've covered many a Mike Krzyzewski coached team in the past, but this one is special. Win or lose, they are special.
I have watched as a fabulous freshman class jelled into a cohesive unit. I have been a witness to Krzyzewski using freshman better than any other coach in the country, always making adjustments. I have seen these young men grow on the AAU trail into young men who have a chance to make golden memories.
Just as I did in 2010, I took time to go to the top of Lucas Oil Stadium where I could get a view of my surroundings. I like to do so when the stadium is empty in that it allows me to reflect on the moment in solitude without interruption. In those moments, I realize how lucky I have been to cover Duke Basketball and go along for the ride.
While the ride is always different with each team, Duke Basketball always has class kids, but this years group is special to me. Having been up close and personal with them for so long, I have developed a bad case of homer media love for them. This team just handles themselves in the very best way possible on and off the court.
Despite their youth, they stay grounded, focused and never get to high or too low. They are business like and wise beyond their years. But it also takes a leader and they have one on senior Quinn Cook. I covered Cook when he was fifteen years old and playing for DeMatha and I have watched him grow.
Cook is currently in the midst of a fabulous, dream like senior season. And he will be playing for his mom and deceased Dad who left the world too early this evening. Somewhere in heaven, I get the impression he has a ring side seat and he will be proud of his son win or lost, just as his mom will be.
Everything is working out for Duke. They are in the title game and that in itself is a herculean effort and what every team plays for. But they want more and the team they face is seasoned, hungry and hell bent on revenge.
Wisconsin comes into this game red-hot, downing the highest seeds along the way, including the former monster known as Kentucky. They are playing great basketball and like Duke, they are a likable bunch. Unlike Kentucky fans who were quick to berate opposing fans when walking around Indianapolis, Badger fans are glad to be here and more humble. And they will outnumber Duke fans greatly if the red we all see in the streets makes it in the arena.
Duke on the other hand is winning with defense. For Duke to shut down or slow the Badgers it will take an effort for the aforementioned are averaging over 70 points per game over their last ten outings. There will be a bit of a sideshow, with National Player of the Year Frank Kaminsky will face runner up Jahlil Okafor.
But intangibles loom large in a game on this stage. If Okafor tries to go one on one to prove himself that may or may not work out. If Cook tried to take on too big of a role or force things, that too could be detrimental. On the other hand, if Duke plays as they have been it will mean a trophy and the big one.
The line on this game is Wisconsin by a single point and they will start the game strong. Duke needs to match that. This is not a game where either team can afford to give up a large lead and it's a contest that will almost certainly go to the wire in nail-biting fashion.
In closing, I will say a loss will be devastating, and a win glorious. But this team has achieved a lot and they are winners either way.
Here is to hoping Blue Devil Nation will be happy by nights end and that you will come here for some good old-fashioned homer coverage.
The Duke Blue Devils have rolled to a 34-4 record and a chance to win a National Championship . They'll take to the court for a 9:18 tip off time tomorrow against a 36-3 Wisconsin team which upset previously undefeated Kentucky. Let's take a look at how this Duke team got here and what it will take to win.
Late Season Defensive Pride
When Michigan State came out and hit four consecutive three-point shots to take an eight point lead, Duke used its defense to lock down on their shooters and advance to the title game. The Spartans scored a mere 61 points after starting the game on fire and that's the most of any team in this tournament to date. When asked of his team's defense of late, Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski pointed to the team playing better man to man defense and grasping the concept better than early in the year. Duke has always been an effective team on the offensive end, but it took this team a while to play the man to man defense their coach prefers. Part of that is the youth factor for sure, but Krzyzewski has a team now that knows he can lead them to the promised land if they listen. Listening and communication go hand in hand and it's the reason for the late season resurgence on the defensive end.
Krzyzewski was questioned about who or what will be the X-Factor during Monday evenings title game. Had the media member been watching Duke closely all season long, they would have realized that the X-Factor is simply playing together. During today's interview sessions, all the Duke players mentioned that the team was unselfish and that they did not play for individual honors. Togetherness has been the main component in the Blue Devils run through the tournament and the same goes for their opponent Wisconsin. Both teams have benefitted differently in that the Badgers have played together for years while the Blue Devils meshed top-notch young talent together. So, if you ask me what the X-Factor would be for the game, I'd say simply continuing to play as a unit and not as an individual. And there in lies a significant challenge, for some players want to shine on the big stage or impress NBA scouts. If this happens, it will not bode well. Quite simply, Duke must play as a cohesive unit for Wisconsin most certainly will.
The Revenge Factor
It's hard to say whether Wisconsin will be pinning their ears back watching the first game where Duke defeated them earlier this season. Since that time both teams have changed and both are better. Michigan State had reason for revenge as well and it didn't work out well for them. But the Badgers are a much better team and Duke broke a long home court winning streak of theirs. I think they will be into the game with some revenge in mind. I think they want to be the most stored team in Badger history and that they'll come into this game with the same confidence they had versus Kentucky.
How Can Duke Win
Most will point to Jahlil Okafor having a big game, but to me it's if he can hit the open man. There is little reason to think the Badgers will guard him with a single man. If double teamed, the Duke guards have knock down three's. Duke also needs to rotate the ball a little better for their assists of late have been slightly down. It will not work out well for Duke to go down eight early to a team like Wisconsin. In fact, Duke really needs a quick start and then they have to weather the storms. The latest line is Wisconsin by a point, so most feel this will be a close game. The coaches get little sleep this time of year and they are working on their plans, but on the biggest stage, it's the team which executes that wins.
The bottom line if this will be a hard-fought game that likely goes down to the wire. Even Krzyzewski seemed to realize that in today's press conference where spoke of Okafor hitting free throws. Duke fans hope it doesn't come to that but the game may well come down to a single play. We'll know soon enough how this one plays out and whether Duke brings home the trophy. Continue reading