Thrilling close to hoops season Blue Devils enjoy storybook ending
• Photo gallery: Butler-Duke NCAA final
By Jeff Portnoy
INDIANAPOLIS óLast May, I bet Duke at 15 to 1 in Las Vegas to win the NCAA championship.
Four weeks ago, I picked Duke in my pool. But it came down to a missed 3-point shot from half court for Duke to defeat everybody's darling, Butler, in last night's championship game.
It was a game for the ages. Duke never could get a lead larger than six points, and Butler's largest lead was two.
Although Duke never trailed in the second half, Butler cut the deficit to 60-59 with 54 seconds remaining. Butler had a chance to go ahead, but Gordon Hayward missed a fadeaway and Duke's Brian Zoubek rebounded and was fouled with three seconds left. He made the first of a 1-and-1, and missed the second on purpose. Butler got the rebound, but Haywood's desperation 3 from half court went off the rim.
If it had been the movie "Hoosiers," Jimmy Chitwood would have made the shot and Butler would have won, sending 65,000 Butler fans here and tens of millions across the country into hysterics. But it was not the movies.
Butler proved it is the second-best team in the country, and this game was one of the most exciting and tense games in Final Four championship history.
Three Dukies and two Bulldogs made the all-tournament team, with Duke's Kyle Singler the most outstanding player.
Butler shot only 34 percent to Duke's 44 percent. Duke shot only 29 percent from 3 after scorching West Virgina from beyond the arc on Saturday. After being badly outrebounded in the first half, Duke came back to outrebound Butler by two.
This is Coach K's fourth national championship at Duke. Butler was in its first championship game. Coach K has now been in more Final Four games than any coach except John Wooden and Dean Smith.
And the championship stays in the triangle area of North Carolina for another year.
It's midnight here, but I am on my way to the Duke team hotel for what will be a memorable celebration. Home tomorrow. I hope you have enjoyed my columns and a little slice of what this outstanding Final Four was all about. Now it's back to UH basketball and a new era.
NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP WINNINGEST COACHES
John Wooden, UCLA
Adolph Rupp, Kentucky; Mike Krzyzewski, Duke
Bob Knight, Indiana
Jim Calhoun, Connecticut; Denny Crum, Louisville; Billy Donovan, Florida; Henry Iba, Oklahoma A&M; Ed Jucker, Cincinnati; Branch McCracken, Indiana; Dean Smith, North Carolina; Roy Williams, North Carolina; Phil Woolpert, San Francisco.