Like a bear emerging from hibernation to eat, I will take the chance today to return from my blogging hiatus, if only briefly, to celebrate one of my favorite teams reaching the pinnacle of their sport.
That’s right – I was one of the few non-Duke-alumni not rooting for the underdogs in last night’s NCAA championship game. My college basketball allegiances are probably a story for another time, but I’ve been rooting for the Blue Devils since I reached middle school and started watching college basketball.
It’s really no fun to root against a team like Butler, a mid-major school which (as was evident last night) absolutely deserved to play in the title game. The “David and Goliath” storyline existed only to drum up some interest in an otherwise star-less game. Butler has an excellent team and a terrific coach, and they proved once again that they could execute against a bigger team.
In Duke and Mike Krzyzewski, Brad Stevens’ Butler team met their coaching-and-execution match, finding a team that was every bit as tenacious as they were and just a smidge more talented. Duke finally wore down Butler’s defensive rebounding presence to get some second chances in the second half.
That was Duke’s calling card all year: efficient offense through offensive rebounding and passing to an open shooter. On the other end of the floor, they played pressure defense around the perimeter, and Matt Howard couldn’t do enough inside to get them to back off Mack and Hayward.
The three seniors – Scheyer, Thomas, and Zoubek – played about as well as they could all year, and they’ll be remembered as champions, while other recent Duke greats like Williams and Redick moved on the NBA empty-handed. Juniors Smith and Singler were bigger contributors in the tournament, and if they both return, they’ll be the keys to a title defense in 2011.
So, congratulations again to Duke. Now it’s time for the Summer of Jason Heyward to get underway. I know some of my readers moved on long ago (you’re still there…right?…….right?), but now I’m with you.