Coach K gets One For The Thumb, Duke champions for fifth time

The Drive for Five is complete, as Duke wins for the third time in Indianapolis

Wow, was Mike Kryzyewski ever pumped up for this one!

Coming off such an emotional game on Saturday, Wisconsin arrived at this championship with a firm game plan in mind:
Ride the horses that got you there.

Early on, the plan was working as Wisconsin committed only two team fouls.  Duke on the other hand, had seven fouls.

Justise Winslow and Jahlil Okafor had 2 fouls each, but the game was tied entering the half at 31.

Even the free throws taken wasn’t much to talk about–Wisconsin making only 3 of 7 and Duke was perfect at 4 for 4.

Wisconsin did not make a turnover for the last 11:37, but Duke scored 10 of their 13 field goals inside the paint.

The second half felt like the second half of their encounter with Butler in 2010 for about 15 minutes.

Bronson Koenig drilled a three to start the second half, and also made a nice layup right and another 22 foot jumper, right after the first under 4 minute TV timeout.

The turning point came with the Badgers up 48-39 as Sam Dekker got hit in the face going for a rebound.  Winslow committed his third foul and had to sit on the bench.

Enter fellow freshman Grayson Allen at the 13:17 mark, as Duke faced its’ largest deficit of the entire 2015 tournament.

Babyfaced physically speaking, but played half the position just like Bobby Hurley did more than a generation ago–the 2014 slam dunk champion as a McDonald’s All American really made himself known in a big way.

Allen force a turnover on the near side baseline and made an old-fashioned three point play a few seconds later to trim the Badgers’ lead to 48-45 with 12:10 to play.

Nigel Hayes returned the favor at the other end with a three point shot, just as Wisconsin’s cheering section dominated about 70% of the Lucas Oil Stadium crowd wearing red.

Wisconsin led 51-45 with 11:41 left, but Duke would be at the free throw line the rest of the way since the Badgers made their 7th team foul by this point.

Bronson Koenig then took a separate shot to the face on the next possession, and Tyus Jones took advantage.  His basket was part of an 11-3 Duke run and the Blue Devils would spend the rest of the game in the double bonus, while Wisconsin fouled Duke only four times at the halfway point of the second half.

The 2015 National Player of the Year in Frank Kaminsky did one of his patented layups and made Okafor sit on the bench again in drawing his fourth foul.  Wisconsin still led 54-50, but the momentum completely shifted after that.

Tyus Jones’ 19 foot jump shot tied the game at 54 with seven minutes to go, then Grayson Allen gave Duke their first lead since 29-28.

The next time around, Wisconsin again worked the shot clock as they were continuing to set the all-time record for offensive efficiency (according to the Ken Pom website).  Kaminsky made another nice layup to tie the game at 56 and another instant classic was in the making.

But Duke had one more surge left in those fabulous freshmen.

Tyus Jones made a falling three and made another cold blooded three to expand their lead from 59-58 to 66-57.

However, Wisconsin again tried to make it close in the final 2 minutes:

Frank Kaminsky made one more 3 as part of his team’s high 21 points to go along with 12 rebounds.  A turnover and a Nigel Hayes’ dunk cut the lead to 3, but it was not enough.  But the big shot finally sunk the Badgers, especially in the case of Sam Dekker.

Too often in the last few weeks, he made the big shot to give the Badgers some breathing room.

However, he went 0 for 6 on Monday night and Wisconsin just could not get to the free throw line.

Duke wins their fifth national title since 1991 and for the third time in Indianapolis.  Duke had a 29-15 run in the final 13:23 to win the championship once again, 68-63.

By scoring 19 of his game high 23 points, Tyus Jones has become the fifth freshman to win the tournament’s Most Oustanding Player Award.

Grayson Allen had a very nice game with 16 points and Jahlil Okafor (even though he did not foul out of any game during this championship season) still finished in double figures with 10.

For Wisconsin, Sam Dekker had a tough earned 12 points to go along with 8 rebounds.  In the end, their cold shooting in the latter stages of the second half really let them down and Duke–just like their past title teams, used the defense as their primary calling card.

For true historical purposes, Coach K is halfway to John Wooden’s total titles won with 5–passing legendary Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp and his four titles from the middle part of the 20th century.

Duke also tied two other legendary programs with Indiana and North Carolina for third place for all-time school titles with 5.

One last version of One Shining Moment

With CBS wrapping up a consecutive streak of 34 years covering the NCAA men’s championship, in 2016 it will be Ted Turner’s flagship in TBS that will carry the banner proudly come April 2 and 4 at NRG Stadium in Houston.

And yes, just like during the last few years–the late Luther Vandross’ soulful version was at times completely drowned out by either excited announcer calls or Tom Izzo’s fiery locker room rant to his Michigan State Spartans.

But at least, I kept it together emotion wise.  No crying this year, but I bet Fox Business anchor/reporter extraordinaire Liz Claman will not get her opportunity to get her victory lap since she had the Badgers winning it all.

Oh well.  My bracket busted with Kentucky’s historic loss on Saturday night, which was ratings gold for TBS, TNT, and truTV.  The national semifinal round was also the highest rated since 1996, the last time the Final Four was not held in a dome.

UPDATE, 4/8:  The Sports Media Watch website reported ratings gold for CBS, covering this their last Final Four for two years.

The game averaged 28.3 million viewers, up 33 percent from 2014 and it was the highest NCAA title game since Arizona-Kentucky in 1997, also in Indianapolis when that number had a final figure at 28.4 million.  The title game peaked at 33.4 million viewers between 11-11:15 p.m Eastern time.

The overall tournament averaged 11.3 million viewers for all four channels, the highest since CBS ran the coverage exclusively with 12.7 million viewers in 1993.

Before it is time for me to say farewell to this blog for the spring and summer, I plan to post my thoughts on the upcoming Player of the Year awards slated for Friday night in Los Angeles, to air at 8 p.m. Eastern on ESPN2.

Look for that blog hopefully sometime on Sunday night or next Monday afternoon.

Huge thanks to all of my fans, both new and the longtime fans–you know who you are and I hope you can tell your friends to take a look at my past blogs and get a bit of inspiration before the really cool times begin again in earnest after the last out of baseball’s World Series.

As I type my final thoughts, consider that we are going to have an interesting mix of coaches making their collegiate debuts and some major movers and shakers.  Thus far:

Ben Howland (famous for leading UCLA to four straight Final Fours from 2005 until 2008) moves out of his slightly cushy gig as an analyst on Fox Sports 1 and took the job at Southern Miss.

DePaul decided to go Back to The Future by hiring the same man that they fired back in 2005, recent Tulsa assistant and former ACC Coach of the Year at Virginia, Dave Leitao.

Illinois-Chicago dipped into Indiana’s hotbed of assistants to pluck out one-time Montana coach Steve McClain.  Meanwhile, St. John’s brings back its’ once proud player who led them to the 1985 Final Four.  It will be 51 year old Hall of Famer Chris Mullin to try and bring New York back to the promised land.

The Havoc (both in play and in military training) is no more at VCU, as Shaka Smart took off last week to Hook ’em Horns in Texas.  This came a few days after the Longhorns did not offer Rick Barnes a new deal.  He then left for another version of orange and the “Rocky Top” that is in Tennessee.

The latest move on Sunday had two-time NBA on ESPN commentator and former 1999 NBA champion player with the San Antonio Spurs in the always approachable Avery Johnson, as he looks forward to singing a sweeter tune deep in SEC country coaching Alabama.  Wonder what conversations he will have with football coach Nick Saban?  If they are anything like what Bruce Weber did last fall in Auburn impromptly giving speeches and singing in various classrooms looking to drum up some student support, this is going to be hopefully one scintillating season for the SEC.

But clearly, with the Big Ten losing six straight title games since 2001, the ACC is definitely the truest hotbed of college basketball today.

With that point firmly in mind, the 2013 theme song that the Turner cable outlets used I hope will be the perfect song to close out the 2016 Big Dance deep in the heart of Texas.

Here is the alternative rock group Black Keys with their mega-hit single, “Gold on The Ceiling”:

Good night, everybody.  Have a nice summer!


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