Duke (aka Mike Krzyzewski) won its fourth national title last night defeating a scrappy Butler squad in an ugly 61-59 death march. Butler was able to drag Duke down into a quicksand game but the Blue Devils did what they have done all year, play great defense and make shots when they needed. Though the game was close Duke lead the majority of the game and it was difficult for me to imagine that Butler was actually going to win. The difference was that Duke had Scheyer, Singler and Smith while Butler’s star players all struggle to score. The Butler starters combined to go 14/50 (28%) from the floor while the Duke trio went 17/40 (42.5%). The repeated references to the movie Hoosiers because Butler is a small school from Indiana were flawed for a host of reasons but the most glaring was that this Butler team couldn’t hope to shoot like the fictional Hickory High did in the film. In six tournament games the Bulldogs only shot above 40% three times. They play ugly, stall ball offense and it nearly got them a national title. In the end though the talent deficit caught up with them. Without Alabama transfer Avery Jukes scoring 10 points off the bench the drama would have been over long before the last few minutes. The game was certainly dramatic and tension filled but it wasn’t a great performance by either team, except on defense. Neither team shot the ball well which isn’t shocking given the defense played but neither team had more assists than turnovers. Butler only had 7 assists the whole game while Duke only managed 12. If you enjoy the art of passing and efficient offense this game didn’t offer much in that regard. It is interesting to consider that many sports writers called Maryland’s win over Indiana in the national title game an ugly game. Statistically the game wasn’t all that different than last night’s affair with Indiana shooting exactly the same percentage as Butler (both went 20/58) and Maryland shooting 0.4% under what Duke shot in last night’s game. Because neither team could pull away and the winner was Duke many will hail this game as one of the best finals ever.
This cements Mike Krzyzewski as the greatest coach in the modern era. His four national titles are behind only John Wooden and he amassed those in an era that was far more difficult to dominate than the pre-64/65 team tournament era. You may hate Duke with its smug superiority, annoying fans that have morphed into conceited caricatures of themselves, and fawning media attention, though that seems to be turning the other way lately, but you cannot deny that Krzyzewski is the gold standard in basketball head coaches. This team was undoubtedly the weakest team (and most unlikely winner) out of his four championship squads but I had a sense in listening to him during the year and after the game last night that that fact made it all the more sweet for the old coach.
In other ACC news Clemson’s Oliver Purnell has left Clemson to go to Big East doormat DePaul. This is a shocking development and taken with the departure of Al Skinner from Boston College not a good sign for the ACC. Skinner and Purnell were clearly two of the better coaches in the ACC and it is highly unlikely that either BC or Clemson will be able to replace them with better coaches. At the very least both programs will probably take a step back with a new coach. After Coach K, Gary Williams and Roy Williams the coaching in the league is pretty thin and it just got thinner.
The curious second year exodus at Virginia continues as junior Jeff Jones will transfer. It is odd for a junior to transfer in the first place but to add him to Sylven Landesberg and Tristan Spurlock who have both left Virginia this off season in addition to Jamil Tucker who was kicked off the team in mid season there is perhaps more turmoil in Charlottesville than was apparent. Jones would probably have been a major scoring option for Toney Bennett next season and his departure probably means another long season for the Wahoos.
Greivis Vasquez was given the Bob Cousy award for the best point guard in college basketball the other night. Coach Gary Williams had some nice words about his beloved senior that you can read here.