This March has seen one of the most exciting NCAA tournaments in recent history, and the championship game was no exception — it was a true nail-biter, keeping fans and spectators on the edge of their seats. In the end, however, midnight struck for the Cinderella Butler Bulldogs, as they were edged by Duke 61-59 Monday evening. The victory gives Duke its fourth national championship, all four of which have come under coach Mike Krzyzewski.
The game was back-and-forth all 40 minutes, as neither team held more than a six-point lead. After the game, Krzyzewski called it “the toughest and the best” of his now four national championships. Coach K later added, “my congratulations and empathy are with the Butler team, who played winning basketball. It was a game [Duke] won, but [Butler] didn’t lose.”
Gordon Hayward’s desperation shot from half-court as time expired would have simply overloaded our brains with upset and insanity had it fallen in the basket; a mid-major five-seed simply couldn’t have topped one of the most storied programs in college basketball history to stay unbeaten for 105 straight days, right? Wrong. The Bulldogs proved Monday night that they are a legitimate contender, not just another bump for Duke to roll over en route to another championship.
Butler legitimized their national standing, as the small school from just outside Indianapolis came within inches of a Hoosiers (or Cinderella for those Gene Hackman and Hickory High School haters) screenplay. The Bulldogs’ successes in past years, however, have proven that they are here to stay in the national spotlight.
But to many fans’ chagrin, the Cameron Crazies prevailed and Durham’s favorite sons prevailed. Duke is a program we love to hate, often referred to as the Yankees or Cowboys of college basketball. As a hater of the Blue and White, I must give Duke its due, as the Blue Devils played an excellent, complete game against a worthy adversary.
This championship game is being heralded as microcosm of the dispersion of talent throughout college basketball, which allows ten homebred Indiana boys to play toe-to-toe with a team of All-Americans, an indication of the increasing parity in the sport. The big schools’ loss is the fans’ gain: There should be many more exciting tournaments filled with upsets in the years to come.