Duke handled pressure better
With just minutes left in the biggest college basketball game in the year, we were no closer to a decision than we had been at tip-off. Duke and Wisconsin were tied at 56-56, back to square 1, and both teams had the final three and a half minutes of the game to decide the winner. Eventually, the result came down to which team held their nerves under pressure the most, and this turned out to be the Blue Devils, playing under a coach who had experienced this moment a handful of times before already.
Led by a clutch performance by point guard Tyus Jones and the leadership of Coach Mike Krzyzewski, Duke won their fifth national title - all under Coach K - with a memorable 68-63 triumph over Wisconsin at Indianapolis on Monday, April 6.
Jones, who scored 23 points and grabbed five rebounds in the final, was named the Most Outstanding Player (MOP) of the Final Four.
For a while, it seemed that Wisconsin - who upset the previously-unbeatable Kentucky Wildcats in the Final Four stage - had the final completely under their control. Led by National College Player of the Year and leading scorer Frank ‘The Tank’ Kaminsky (21 points, 12 rebounds), the Badgers took a 10 point lead earlier in the second half.
Without their star, big man Jahlil Okafor who sat on the bench with foul trouble, Duke seemed destined to be halted at the final stage. But slowly, the Blue Devils made their comeback, led by standout performances by their freshmen Jones and Grayson Allen (16 points). Staying calm under pressure, big shots in the end by Jones, Allen, and Okafor helped Duke close out for their fifth title in 11th title game and second title in the last five years.
Impressive young players stand a chance in next draft
Duke had defeated Michigan State 81-61 in the Final Four, while Wisconsin had shocked Kentucky 71-64.
For NBA fans, the college season provided a glimpse of many young players who have the potential to play important roles at the professional level in the future. The likes of Karl-Anthony Towns, Willie Cauley-Stein (Kentucky), Okafor, Justice Winslow (Duke), D’Angelo Russell (Ohio State), Stanley Johnson (Arizona), Kaminsky (Wisconsin), and many more will likely be in the lottery pick conversation by the time of the NBA draft this summer.
This was also a good season for Indian-origin players across Division 1 basketball, as five played for various college teams this season: Tanveer Bhullar (New Mexico State), Varun Ram (Maryland), Venky Jois (Eastern Washington), James Blackmon Jr. (Indiana), and Sai Tummala (Arizona State).
Ram in particular enjoyed a major breakthrough after his big defensive play to help Maryland defeat Valparaiso and score a couple of points in the loss to West Virginia. Tanveer is the younger brother of Sim Bhullar, the first Indian-descent player to get into the NBA.