Down nine, the best players on the team, on the bench with foul trouble, 13 minutes left to go, and all the momentum for the big red machine known as Wisconsin Duke got it done. The crowd was filled with red shirts and even a red teletubby. All signs pointed to Frank Kaminsky winning the Player of the Year award and National Championship. Then, the spark came a freshman named Grayson Allen came off the bench with his teammates in need of any type of momentum. Immediately, Grayson knocks down a three, gets a steal, and then gets to the basket and gets an and one and the game changed on a dime.
Coach K pressed all the right buttons, like he often does. That’s why he is widely referred to as the best coach in college basketball. After last night, Dick Vitale claimed Coach K was the greatest college basketball coach of all-time. That can be debated later, but today there is no debate, Duke earned a National Championship last night and it started with Coach K. The Blue Devils were widely thought of as the second best team in the country all year. The struggles came on the defensive end. Come tournament time, the narrative changed. The Duke defense swarmed their opponents and they did it again last night. Wisconsin, one of the best, if not, the best offensive team in the country, seemed unstoppable after scoring 71 in the National Semifinal and beating the previously unbeaten Kentucky. One more time, Coach K pressed the right buttons.
The move that will go overlooked was when Jahlil Okafor went to the bench with his fourth foul. In comes Amile Jefferson with the assignment to guard big “Frank the Tank,” and boy did he step up. He held Kaminsky in check long enough for the Dukies to get the momentum back and get Jahlil Okafor back in the game. It was an all-time National Championship game that had great players, players that are going to go to the NBA. The headline though was a young freshman named Tyus Jones. Down the stretch he knocked two threes and shot in which he was fouled giving him eight points including the dagger three that put Duke up eight and all but sealed the fate of Wisconsin. Multiple guys; Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones, Justice Winslow, and Grayson Allen, all came up with big offensive plays down the stretch.
The freshman proved to be the difference against a team who took Kentucky’s freshman to school. Wisconsin had a great season, and arguably had the toughest road to the Final Four, but the best team in the country beat them. That’s what I took away from watching that game. Duke was the best team in the country, not Kentucky. Maybe Coach K is the difference, I’m not sure. But watching that game, Duke had the answers down the stretch. They slowed down the hot Sam Dekker and found ways to score with their two best players on the bench. Coach K won his fifth career National Championship and he shows no signs of stopping. After an all-timer last night, once again, March Madness didn’t disappoint.