Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, April 8, 2015 at 12:00 AM
OUR NCAA TOURNAMENT CHAMPIONSHIP
GAME RE-CAP –
DUKE WINS IT ALL
(AND DON’T GO BLAMING THE REFS!)
Wonder what Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan was thinking right about halftime when his Badgers already had put Duke’s Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow in foul trouble with two PF’s (personal fouls) against both star players:
Did he think the officiating was bad then?
The fact of the matter is Monday night’s NCAA Tournament National Championship Game – a hard-fought 68-63 win by Duke against 1-point favorite Wisconsin – was not always officiated in a brilliant manner but we just about heard all the sour grapes we could take from the sad-sack Ryan afterwards.
Okay, so Winslow did indeed step on the end line prior to a Duke bucket by Okafor late in the game but tally up the total foul calls and you’d see 15 fouls whistled on Wisconsin and 13 fouls on Duke.
It was Blue Devils’ head coach Mike Krzyzewski who had to “message” the minutes of two of his star players in that aforementioned first half and it’s the Badgers’ (and Ryan’s) own fault that the game remained tied at 31-apiece at the break.
Here is was that Okafor had barely broken a first-half sweat because of the foul woes and yet West Regional champ Wisconsin couldn’t grab the lead at the break? Bad job, Bo.
Following the bitter defeat, Ryan whined on about too much “hand contact” but give Big 10 TV Network analyst Jimmy Jackson lots of credit for a non-biased statement that Wisconsin simply didn’t drive the ball at or to the hoop in the game’s final 12-plus minutes while Duke – and specifically reserve G Grayson Allen (16 points on 5-of-8 FG shooting and 5-of-5 shooting from the free-throw line) – became super-aggressive in their drives once the Devils fell behind 48-39 with 13:23 remaining.
Allen was a major savior for a Duke team in need of a pick-me-up and – when you really break it on down – he was the X-factor the Badgers didn’t have on this particular evening (more about that a bit later).
Duke (35-4) charged back into this title game on the grit and energy of Allen but the Blue Devils knew where its bread was buttered late with super frosh PG and Most Outstanding Player Tyus Jones (game-high 23 points with just one turnover in 37 minutes played) and C Okafor (10 points in 22 minutes) sinking the big hoops at crunch time and counter that with the fact that Wisconsin star Sam Dekker (6-of-15 FG shooting for 12 points) was a mere shell of himself with a couple of put-back hoops but not much else as the teary-eyed Dekker missed all six of his three-point field-goal attempts … now was that the ref’s fault too, coach Ryan?
As we had pointed out in our Jim Sez Championship Game preview article on Monday, the Badgers (36-4) needed an energy game from someone off the bench if they were gonna win their first national championship since 1941 but instead Ryan “shortened” the bench – don’t ask why! – and the likes of G Traevon Jackson and Duje Dukan combined for only 7 points on 3-of-10 FG shooting and we never saw G Zak Showalter or anyone else off the pine.
The reason that became super-important is because Player of the Year Frank Kaminsky (21 points and 12 rebounds) of Badgers’ fame surely wore down late in this game after having played 39 minutes and getting just little breaks for TV timeouts, etc.
Kaminsky played his heart out and had that drive-to-the-left move down pat – yes, we know TV’s Charles Barkley made light of the simplistic move but it worked plenty here – but he simply didn’t have much in the tank late and mucho credit to Duke’s reserve big man Amile Jefferson who played 21 dogged minutes and registered 7 rebounds and 3 blocks while stalling Kaminsky’s moves in the paint.
So, what were the stats that served to surprise us?
Well, Duke managed to win its fifth title since 1991 despite the fact it drilled just four trifectas (in only 11 attempts) and despite the fact Winslow canned just three field goals in his 32 minutes of action – he was the centerpiece star for Duke this tourney but never did get a real working rhythm here with those foul woes and so – in a way – the Blue Devils were “fortunate” to have won the biggest game of the year without an A+ game from the athletic Winslow here.
One other stat:
Wisconsin – staying true to its “don’t-beat-itself” mantra – committed only five turnovers on the night but lots of empty possessions in the game’s final 10-or-so minutes hurt and that included the Badgers’ missing seven of their last nine FG tries that really helped to tell the tale late.
The Tyus Jones triple with 4:08 remaining in the game that put Duke ahead 59-58 was one of the late-game daggers and ditto for the Jones trifecta that made it 66-58 with only 1:26 left – that second one mentioned here all but put an exclamation point on this contest.
Gee, the zebras had nothing to do with those big Jones 3-balls, did they?
The post-game gripes about the officials rang hollow – heck, we were somewhat surprised that as many people we heard interviewed believed the call-making was worse than we thought – but you can put this one on Wisconsin for not expanding the first-half leads it had and for not shutting the door on Duke once the Big 10 team got ahead by nine points with 13-plus minutes remaining.
Yes, as Ryan later pointed out, that’s a long time to hold off a great Duke team and nine points isn’t a “commanding lead” but when the Badgers needed to be assassins they failed at that mission while Duke made big/timely shots throughout the night whenever it appeared the Blue Devils were wobbly.
Thank you, Coach K.
Now, here’s a look at Duke’s title run in this year’s NCAA Tournament:
San Diego St.
Now hear this …
Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers/Bloggers have put a capper on the College Basketball Season and the NCAA Tournament and now it’s time to cash in big with the NBA and Major-League Baseball.
Just go online here at www.jimhurley.com or call our exclusive toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 and we’ll send you straight into the winner’s circle.
NCAA TOURNAMENT POINTSPREAD CHART
Finally, take note of how the major conferences fared spreadwise in this year’s tournament:
Note that Duke wound up with a perfect 6-and-oh ATS (against the spread) mark in this year’s NCAA Tournament while runner-up Wisconsin only split its six pointspread verdicts with covers against North Carolina, Arizona and Kentucky and spread setbacks to Coastal Carolina, Oregon and Duke.
Also, the power conferences here (and we include the American Athletic Conference or AAC for our studies) combined to go just 44-46 against the odds in this man’s tourney while note overall NCAA Tournament Betting Favorites finished the just-completed “Big Dance” at 30-36-0 with one pick ‘em game for a shabby .454 winning rate.
Okay, so it’s not very likely that many of Duke’s stars will be back for the 2015-16 season – Okafor, Tyus Jones and Winslow all are expected to be gobbled up in June’s NBA Draft (with Okafor and Winslow likely going in the top five selections) but do you really want to bet against Krzyzewski getting back to the promised land with a new cast of characters and that star-in-the-making Allen in his backcourt?
When you’re ranking all-time coaching jobs in college hoops history, this one might not be at the very top of the heap but it’s up there, okay?
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