The NCAA DI men’s basketball National Championship took place on Monday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. It featured the Wisconsin Badgers versus the Duke Blue Devils, with Duke winning it all by a score of 68-63. This marks Duke's fifth National Championship, all of which have come under head coach Mike Krczyzweski.
Both teams’ paths to the Championship Game were tough in their own right, but Wisconsin’s tournament run will be remembered years from now for arguably the best college basketball game so far this decade. That game, of course, was the Badgers’ historic upset of formerly undefeated Kentucky in the National Semifinal. The Final Four contest was considered an instant classic, as Wisconsin stormed back from a four-point deficit in the final minutes to win 71-64.
Though 7-foot senior Frank Kaminsky was the catalyst and leader for the Badgers all season, which earned him recognition as a Player of the Year candidate, junior Sam Dekker had a remarkable tournament in his own right. He capped off his great performance by hitting the biggest shot in Wisconsin basketball history, a three-pointer against Kentucky that gave Wisconsin a lead, 63-60, from which they never trailed again.
Duke featured a few star players as well, led by four talented freshmen: Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones, Justise Winslow and Grayson Allen. Okafor has been projected as a top-three pick in the upcoming NBA Draft since December, and his outstanding play did not take many opponents by surprise; however, the stellar play of the three less-heralded freshmen was not expected, as many analysts felt that Duke was too inexperienced to win it all.
The game itself was a closely contested matchup throughout the entire 40 minutes. The score was tied at halftime and was tied again at 56-56 with five minutes left. From there, Duke outscored Wisconsin 10-2, highlighted by two critical three-pointers from Duke’s Jones and two baskets from Okafor.
Kaminsky hit a three-pointer with 1:09 remaining to make the score 66-61, and after Jones missed a contested layup, Wisconsin’s Nigel Hayes scored with 50 seconds left to cut the deficit to three. Wisconsin then unsuccessfully tried to force a turnover, which led to the controversial decision to foul Jones, Duke’s best free-throw shooter, as opposed to defending Duke and getting a chance for a last-second shot. Jones hit both free throws to essentially ice the game for Duke.
Duke showed impressive grit and determination in the win, especially Allen, who scored eight consecutive points at a critical juncture in the game where Wisconsin was up 48-39 and seemed like they were about to pull away.
The Blue Devils captured their third NCAA National Championship in 15 years. Their last title came in the 2009-2010 season. Duke also won the Tournament in 2001, 1992 and 1991.