The NCAA Tournament never disappoints. Monday night featured a thriller between the Badgers and the Blue Devils, a back-and-forth game of guts, sweat, and pure effort on both sides of the floor. There were unlikely heroes, surprises, drama, but in the end, Duke prevailed and defeated the Badgers for the second time this season to win the NCAA National Championship.
The first half was back and forth, and just like Wisconsin's first match up in the Final Four, both teams went into halftime tied. Jahlil Okafor found himself in considerable foul trouble early in the second half. He sat for most of the second half with three, and after re-entering the game, he immediately picked up his fourth foul. In his absence, freshmen Tyus Jones and Grayson Allen came up big. As the game seemed to be slipping away, both rattled off huge shots to climb Duke back into the contest. Jones finished with 23 while Allen scored 16 off the bench.
While Kaminsky and Wisconsin fought hard down the stretch, it would prove to be too little to get past the Devils. A pair of questionable calls left Badger fans in dismay, but nevertheless, the game went on. Okafor made an and-1 bucket and Jones hit a dagger three-pointer to secure an 8 point lead with under 2 to play. The Blue Devils would hold on to defeat the Badgers for the title.
What We Learned
Duke's Freshmen are Clutch
Need I say more? While the majority of the season's emphasis may have been on the freshman over in Lexington, Duke proved that it has the most talented and mature group of young players in the entire country. With Justise Winslow and Jahlil Okafor on the bench in the second half, Duke looked to be in trouble, but out of nowhere came freshman Grayson Allen who rattled off 8 straight points.
Every time the Blue Devils play a big game, Tyus Jones shows up, and boy did he show up in the biggest one of them all. He scored 22 against the Badgers back in December, and 23 in the Championship game seemed all too similar. It was his dagger three-pointer at the end of the game that keeps us wondering, "Is he really a freshman?"
Frank Kaminsky Alone wasn't enough for Wisconsin
Kaminsky certainly didn't disappoint, but late in the game, some of his teammates did. The Wisconsin senior and Naismith Award Winner finished with 21 points and 12 rebounds, but he couldn't get the job done all by himself. Senior Josh Gasser scored 0 points on the night, and he was partially the reason for Wisconsin's inability to get the job done. Gasser only attempted one shot and as the senior leader and mentor of the team, Gasser needed more touches. Kaminsky was good, but the Badger offense needed more contributions.
Questionable Calls can still interfere with College Basketball Games
Most would agree that there were some questionable calls or lack there of towards the end of the game that ultimately went against Wisconsin. There was a missed call in which Justise Winslow of Duke stepped on the baseline. After regrouping himself, he dished it back out and Duke got a big bucket. With just under 2 minutes to go, the ball went out of play under Wisconsin's hoop, and the call was Duke basketball. Since it was under 2 minutes, the call was able to be reviewed, so the refs went to the monitor for another look. Even though it appeared as if Winslow got a finger on it, Duke was awarded the basketball.
These questionable calls towards the end of the game are not to say that Wisconsin should have won, because that would be ridiculous. Even with some calls that didn't go their way, the Badgers were fully capable of winning the game. The one thing that this does draw light on is the unpredictability of the way college basketball games are officiated. What we see on T.V. may be completely different from what the refs see on the court, and in these tight situations, it often becomes very difficult to make the right call. Although we've given refs the ability to go back to the monitor to review, it seems as if we still run into bad calls every now and then. What can be done to prevent these calls in the future should certainly be addressed in order to preserve the integrity of the game.
Duke will go into the off-season with a Championship under its belt while Wisconsin will leave its second straight Final Four in disappointment. Now it becomes a question as to how these two teams will look next year once players decide whether or not to go to the NBA draft.
Wisconsin will inevitably lose Kaminsky, Gasser, Jackson, and Dukan to graduation, but it could lose a few more of its stars to the draft. If Dekker and Hayes, both likely first round picks, decided to leave early, this Wisconsin team could be in shambles come next year. If those two decide to stay in rebuild with guards Koening and Showalter, then Wisconsin could me in the mix for a third straight Final Four.
Duke will undoubtedly lose Winslow and Okafor to the NBA Draft, and senior leader Quinn Cook will be lost to graduation, but Duke may keep some talent away from the pros. Tyus Jones could go either way at this point. He is definitely ready for the NBA, but could certainly improve his draft stock with another year of college. Grayson Allen should return and be a huge contributor for the Blue Devils next season as Duke will try to reload and make it two straight championships.