The Duke Blue Devils, finishing the season 35-4, proved to be the most dominant team in this year’s NCAA Men’s Tournament. They captured their fifth National Title under head coach Mike Krzyzewski in a wild 68-63 victory over the top seeded Wisconsin Badgers, who finished the season 36-4, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Duke entered the NCAA Tournament unsurprisingly as the No. 1 seed in the South Region of the bracket and had little trouble handling their opponents. Their marginal victory of points per game was at 15.5.
The Blue Devils possessed a stacked roster with an abundance of youth, athleticism and talent all season long. The stunning statistic was that the vast majority of their team was led by freshmen Tyus Jones, Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow.
Tyus Jones was named Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four, as he had a game-high 23 points, 19 of which were scored in the second half. He committed just one turnover, put up five rebounds, had one assist and went a perfect 7-7 shooting from the foul line.
Duke’s bigs Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow struggled in the first half as they faced early foul trouble, limiting their minutes on the court. However Okafor concluded with 10 points and three rebounds while Winslow finished with 11 points and corralled nine rebounds, one shy of a double-double. Okafor only played 22 minutes while Winslow played 32.
Duke freshman guard Grayson Allen was the unsung hero for the Blue Devils, finishing second in scoring with 16 points in 21 minutes off the bench. He only scored 15 points in all the last three tournament games combined. Low-key on offense but making a huge impact with his defensive play, Duke junior captain and forward Amile Jefferson scored two points but added seven rebounds and three monster blocks. Lastly senior captain and point guard Quinn Cook concluded with six points, four rebounds and two assists in his final game as a Blue Devil.
Wisconsin senior forward and Naismith Player of the Year Frank Kaminsky finished his final collegiate game as a Badger with a double-double (21 points, 12 rebounds). He also played a team-high 39 minutes. Wisconsin forward Sam Dekker finished with 12 points, eight rebounds and added two assists but went 0-6 from three-point range. He only made 40 percent of his shots (6-15). Also Wisconsin starting guard Josh Gasser was held scoreless.
The game was all knotted up at halftime, 31-31, with Duke making half of their shots in the first half and Wisconsin shooting 38.7 percent from the field. For the second time in NCAA championship history, the game had been tied at the half. The last halftime tie took place in 1988 when the score was 50-50 between Kansas and Oklahoma.
The key play to Duke’s success was Tyus Jones’ contested three-pointer made with 1:24 remaining, pushing Duke’s lead to 66-58. Duke’s freshmen astoundingly scored 60 of their 68 total points.
With this being Mike Krzyzewski’s fifth national title, he has surpassed legendary and iconic former Kentucky head coach Adolph Rupp. Krzyzewski, also known as “Coach K,” moves into second place all-time amongst college basketball championship coaches. Former UCLA head coach John Wooden remains first with 10 national titles.
Coach Krzyzewski has now made his twelfth trip to the Final Four in his tenure at Duke, tying him with Wooden for the most ever and surpassing former North Carolina head coach Dean Smith.
“I haven’t loved a team any more than I’ve loved this team,” Krzyzewski said after the game on the podium with his team. “We have eight guys, and four of them are freshmen. For them to win 35 games and win the national title is incredible.”
According to ESPN bracketology, there were 11.57 million brackets entered for NCAA March Madness and only 9.3% of those brackets chose Duke to win the National Championship.