Nine observations about the National Championship Game

The bizarre love affair between the Duke Blue Devils and the city of Indianapolis continued Monday night, as Mike Krzyzewski was able to capture his third national championship in the city and fifth overall as head coach of the basketball powerhouse from Durham.

In what was a tremendously exciting game filled with a plethora of lead changes, a big man matchup for the ages, unforgettable freshman performances, vital players getting in foul trouble, and a lot of slow motion shots of Coach K passionately fist pumping, Duke was able to prevail in the end thanks to a furious comeback led by Tyus Jones and Jahlil Okafor. Meanwhile, it was the second straight devastating season-ending loss for Wisconsin, who lost last year in the National Semifinal. They spoke all season about how that loss was motivating them to be better this campaign, but they came just a few minutes short from completing their redemption story.

Are you looking for a recap about everything that went down last night, from the action on the court to the flashy hats that were passed out afterward? Or are you just not quite ready to say goodbye to college basketball until next November? Either way, you’re in the right place. Below, you’ll find nine thoughts I had while watching Duke and Wisconsin battle it out for the right to call themselves the top team in college hoops. These are the things that stuck out to me the most as I was watching, and the things I’ll remember when I look back on this showdown years from now. Please, feel free to use these as conversation starters at the water cooler over the next few days.


Tyus Jones was CLUTCH in crunch time. 

Is Tyus Jones somehow related to the Kardashians? Because my word, that kid loves the spotlight.

Tyus Jones is 18 years old. He should be working at Dairy Queen and playing Xbox with his friends, not hitting dagger threes in the NCAA Championship game and winning the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four award. But that’s precisely what he did Monday night.

All year long, Jones was the Blue Devil who the team turned to in the most pressure packed moments, and time and time again he delivered. So while it would normally be surprising that a kid who should be trying to line up a job as a counselor at a summer camp was able to perform so well under the brightest of lights, Jones nailing clutch shots and closing games was nothing new for Duke fans. That’s why, even if this is his only year at the school, he has cemented his legacy in the hearts of its fans forever. He was simply remarkable in college basketball’s final half of the season, and he certainly earned his ring.

Grayson Allen introduced himself to a national audience, and is going to be a treat to watch next year.

Duke’s team this year was stacked with standout freshman, which prevented Grayson Allen from getting as much playing time and developing as much as he would’ve just about anywhere else. He wasn’t stuck in the background on Monday night though, as the explosive guard scored 16 points after averaging only 4.0 in the regular season and 3.7 in the tournament. Okafor and Jones were the ones who clinched the title for Duke with their play down the stretch, but Allen’s contributions were just as necessary, as he carried the offense for long stretches of time during the game and especially in the second half.

His name may sound more like that of a country singer than that of an elite basketball player, and he may look more like the type of guy teenaged girls have posters of above their bed than the type of guy opposing coaches have to scout for, but against Wisconsin, Allen was simply fantastic. He was relentless attacking the basket, and he recorded a few acrobatic finishes at the rim, including this one:

Allen’s playing time and production gradually increased over the year, and it spiked during the team’s two Final Four games. It was a much needed performance that Blue Devil fans will never forget, and it will surely set the tone for what should be a very entertaining sophomore year from Allen, one that I can not wait to see. His athleticism, driving prowess, and offensive ability were all briefly revealed to a national audience, and it’ll be a treat to see much more of it when next season rolls around. He’s going to be a player I keep an eye on.

I’m so glad I watched the game from the comfort of my own apartment instead of the cramped upper deck of an enormous football stadium.

For those of you who have been to a football game and sat in the upper deck, you know how hard it is to see the game unfold. Now imagine watching a game from the same vantage point, except the playing surface you’re watching on is significantly smaller and your tickets are significantly more expensive; this is also known as attending the NCAA men’s basketball title game in person.

Yes, I understand that being able to witness college basketball’s championship is an extremely rare opportunity, but I’m happy I let someone else take advantage of that chance while I spent my night on my lumpy couch eating a generously filled bowl of Chipotle. How many people at Lucas Oil Stadium could say they had the same experience? Zero.

Here are a few more reasons why watching the game at home was better than witnessing it live:

-I didn’t have to pay an absurd amount of money for my seat on the previously mentioned lumpy couch.

-I didn’t have to pay an absurd amount of money for the bottle of water I pulled out of my fridge.

-I didn’t have to awkwardly step over 14 strangers when I wanted to use the bathroom.

-The commute from my room to the couch, and then back to my room after the game, was about six seconds, definitely quicker and less stressful than what it would’ve been if I went to the game.

As you can see, I’m very content with the experience I had viewing the contest in the comfort of my own apartment. I won’t be able to tell people twenty years from now I was at the game, but I will be able to tell people I didn’t pay an amount of money that would equate to about a month’s worth of food for me to watch a basketball game from seats that were higher than Wiz Khalifa on a Friday night. And in my mind, that’s something to be very proud of and happy with.

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Wisconsin looked rusty for the first 14 minutes of the first half, then really, really good for the last six minutes.

For much of the first half, the Badgers were out of sync. They had a few uncharacteristic turnovers, were hesitant to take open threes, and were shooting a percentage at the free throw line that even DeAndre Jordan would shake his head at. Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker, who had been scorching hot in the tournament’s first five games, looked especially rattled, air-balling his first shot of the game and bricking plenty others.

Fortunately for the fans of the team from Madison, the team took off around the six minute mark. Dekker grabbed an offensive rebound and put it back with a reverse layup all in the same motion, Traevon Jackson had a fast break finger roll, and Frank Kaminsky finished through contact from Jahlil Okafor for an and-one to spark the offense and help Bo Ryan’s bunch climb back into the game. The team finally shed their nerves during the mini-run and starting crashing the offensive glass with reckless abandon, which helped them collect a large chunk of the 11 second chance points they tallied in the first half. The little burst by the Badgers at the end of the matchup’s opening stanza was a big reason why the score was tied after the first 20 minutes (as opposed to Duke holding a decent lead, which looked like the likely outcome after Wisconsin’s sluggish start).

Wisconsin then looked really, really good for the first 14 minutes of the second half, and then not so good for the last six minutes.

Wisco made sure to carry over its strong end to the first half into the beginning of the second half, as Kaminsky and Bronson Koenig led their team with impressive stretches of offensive play. Momentum traded sides all night, but the Badgers took hold of it for an extended period of time in the final stanza and built up a nine point lead. But then the team suddenly seemed to get tight and started to play cautiously, and Duke pounced on them. It was an inverse of the first half, and the lackluster finish is why Badger basketball fans still don’t have a title since 1941.

The CBS broadcasting team of Jim Nantz, Grant Hill and Bill Raftery is a darn good one.

Because I’m a bit of a curmudgeon, one of the things I do most when watching sports games is criticize announcer teams anytime they mess up, or constantly complain about the way they go about analyzing and discussing the action. It probably makes watching sports with me borderline unbearable for other people, but our Founding Fathers built this country on the principles of free speech, and I try to honor their sacrifice by obnoxiously yelling at the TV whenever a play-by-play guy says something dumb.

However, at a point late in the second half, I realized that I hadn’t been anywhere near as critical of the Nantz/Hill/Raftery trio as I usually am of TV announcers. In fact, I even complimented them a few times. Jim Nantz’s voice is smoother than Ryan Gosling in “Crazy Stupid Love” (I saw that movie with my mom, get off my back), Grant Hill provided good insight from a player’s perspective (and for the most part kept his Duke allegiances beneath the surface, which must have been difficult), and Bill Raftery was up to his usual antics, punctuating some of the game’s most crucial moments with one word exclamations that were somewhat hard to understand yet very fun nonetheless.

Most of the time I watch games, I find myself wanting to mute the volume so I don’t have to hear what the broadcasters are saying. Last night, though, I really enjoyed the CBS team, and found that they added to the overall experience with their useful comments and opinions.

Bo Ryan was not the most gracious loser.

Look, I’ve played in sports games that were far, far, FAR less important than the one that was played last night, and said things that were far, far, FAR more harsh than the things Badgers coach Bo Ryan said in his post game interview with Tracy Wolfson minutes after his team was beaten, so I’m not exactly going to get on my high horse here. With that being said, his comments were not acceptable and a bit unbecoming, and I’m sure he wishes this morning he could take them back.

In the interview, Ryan blamed the refs for letting the game get too physical, saying that, “There was more body contact than any game we played all year…It’s just a shame it had to be played that way,” and later commenting, “We don’t do rent-a-player,” in reference to Duke’s reliance on freshman who will be “one and done” players. I completely and totally understand he was caught up in the heat of the game and only had a few short minutes to process the loss, but it was not his greatest moment.

Can the sports year get any more boring?

Ohio State won the college football championship, the Patriots won the Super Bowl, and now Duke wins the college basketball championship. Could this sports year get any more predictable?

Honestly, the plot of this sports season his been more obvious than the plot of Liam Neeson’s last five movies. I guess we should just mark down the Spurs for another NBA Finals victory in June and hand the World Series trophy to the Giants right now to save us the time. Good grief.

Those gold hats Duke players got to wear in the postgame celebration were awfully fancy.

The real prize for Duke players won’t be the lifelong memories they made together during their championship season or the lessons they learned along the way. No, the coolest part about being NCAA champs is those fresh free hats they got to wear during the post game celebration.

I don’t think they’re trying too hard at all. I actually think they’re trying just the right amount. When I see those hats, I want to type 100 heart-eyed emojis. They’re a fitting gift for a team who turned in a golden performance in front of all of America last night.

Peter Hailey
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Peter Hailey

Recruiting Writer at The Left Bench
Peter is a junior at the University of Maryland. A native of Rockville, MD, he went to Rockville High School, where he started his journalistic career working for the nationally acclaimed Rockville Rampage. He has also interned for Comcast SportsNet Mid Atlantic in Bethesda, MD and runs his own DC sports blog called Barely in Bounds. Peter is relentlessly dedicated to DC sports teams, and is especially attached to the Redskins. He calls his old Toyota Camry "RGIII" because it shouldn't run as much as it does, and he has seen every Sean Taylor highlight video on the internet. He hopes to one day witness his team win a Super Bowl.
Peter Hailey
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About Peter Hailey 24 Articles
Peter is a junior at the University of Maryland. A native of Rockville, MD, he went to Rockville High School, where he started his journalistic career working for the nationally acclaimed Rockville Rampage. He has also interned for Comcast SportsNet Mid Atlantic in Bethesda, MD and runs his own DC sports blog called Barely in Bounds. Peter is relentlessly dedicated to DC sports teams, and is especially attached to the Redskins. He calls his old Toyota Camry "RGIII" because it shouldn't run as much as it does, and he has seen every Sean Taylor highlight video on the internet. He hopes to one day witness his team win a Super Bowl.