sports

Duke Wins NCAA National Championship

Wisconsin Giant-killers fall short in final game

Coach K vanquished Bo Ryan's Badgers previously—and again.
Coach K vanquished Bo Ryan's Badgers previously—and again.
ESPN
Duke versus Wisconsin wasn't the storyline we expected but it may have made for an even better game. Both schools had to vanquish huge opponents to get there, but neither seemed to think much of the previous tasks—they were focused on the big game ahead.

In the championship game, both teams came to play. In a proper final, with two 1 seeds vying for the trophy, it was a back-and-forth affair especially in the first half.

When Duke's head coach Mike Krzyzewski met up with Michigan State's Tom Izzo, it was a familiar scene; the teams had already played three times in the NCAA Tournament, with Duke getting the better end of a 2-1 record. However, Izzo has strung together a solid March reputation, seeming to come through at every opportunity—other than games against Duke. The Blue Devils crushed the MSU Spartans, coasting into the championship game 81-61.

The Wisconsin Badgers, on the other hand, were the story of the weekend. After knocking off previously undefeated Kentucky, the slayers of the highly touted Giants entered Monday night's game as slight favorites. Frank Kaminsky, the leader of the Badgers, and their leading scorer from the forward position, won the game on his 22nd birthday and earned national player of the year honors as well.

In the championship game, both teams came to play. In a proper final, with two 1 seeds vying for the trophy, it was a back-and-forth affair especially in the first half. Duke's Justise Winslow picked up two fouls early, but was needed on the court, so Coach K re-inserted him with more than four minutes left in the first half. Jahlil Okafor had two fouls in the first half as well, and Wisconsin committed a mere two fouls in the opening frame. The teams went to the locker rooms for halftime with a knotted score of 31-31.

When the teams emerged, Wisconsin appeared to grab serious velocity. But Duke can never be counted out. They made a push at the 13-minute mark. Kaminsky attempted to stem the tide by drawing Okafor's fourth foul, but Duke took the lead for the first time since early in the first half at just over five minutes left in the game, and hit a key 3 to take it again around the four-minute mark. With only two fouls committed by Wisconsin in the first half, the Badgers finished the game with 15; quite an uptick from the first to the second.

A loose ball that certainly looked like it was touched by Duke didn't get called that way on a review of the play, and the Blue Devils rode out their momentum to win by five points, 68-63. Coach Mike Krzyzweski wins his fifth NCAA Tournament, the Blue Devils win their first since 2010 and the Wisconsin Badgers, faced with losing at least Kaminsky and Josh Gasser—Sam Dekker is only a junior and pulled quite the disappearing act in the final game, so who knows where his NBA draft stock is resting right now—next year, will have to go back to the drawing board.