It’s going to be hard for me to get through this without a bias. Impossible, actually. I despise Duke and everything that the Blue Devils basketball team stands for. Stuck-up, elitist, and everything else that is bad about a sports team. So yes, I am pissed they won the national championship, 61-59 over Butler. They did not deserve it.
Butler. Oh Butler. The Cinderella story. The Hoosiers sequel. The hometown team making the national championship game. They deserved this. They played with Duke, matched them through 40 well-fought minutes, even when the refs were clearly favoring the ACC champs. (Seriously, in 10-15 years when this game is on ESPN Classic, people will watch and remember how much the referees favored Duke. It was disgusting. Especially the Brian Zoubek-Matt Howard match up down low. )
The game was close throughout, with no team taking a lead bigger than 6 points (7-1 Duke, big whoop) and a crap load of lead changes throughout. Butler dominated the boards in the first half, but a couple of dubious calls on Howard took the big man out, and in his absence Duke started dominating the post. Still, the score was 33-32 Duke at halftime, setting up a tense second half. Both teams fought, and neither pulled away at any point: for the duration of the second half, Duke led by either 4 or 2, setting up the scene for a wild final 4 minutes. Alas, Duke’s size inside was just too much for the Bulldogs, who at times had the 6’9” Gordon Hayward covering the 7’1” Zoubek (who quickly made his way into my hate-list. Plus, he really looks like Brad Miller. That bugs me). Butler had 2 chances to win the game in the last 15 seconds, with Gordon Hayward taking a fade-away jumper (that would have put Butler up 61-60 with 4 seconds left) that was a little too long, and then a half court prayer that the Basketball Gods did not answer.
Instead, we watch a Duke team that benefited from the easiest bracket in the tournament celebrate — the epitome of what I hate about college basketball. Kyle Singler, a player who I hate more than anyone on Duke except for the oh-so-hateable Jon Scheyer, played great for the Blue Devils, with some clutch blocks and shots, finishing with 19 points.
Congratulations to Duke, I suppose: you have won on a night where only the worst kinds of fans (and Duke alumni, who are excused) were cheering for you. How I wish Gordon Hayward’s half-court buzzer beater had gone in (picture above). Alas, sports aren’t fair.