The top moment of the decade for Duke Basketball has to belong to the Blue Devils' 2001 National Championship team. From the players to the coaches, and from the fans to the media commentators, every person was touched by this group of players in some way, shape, or form.
The 2001 season was, "a dream come true for the men in blue."
Highlighting the class of talented men on the roster was Shane Battier.
Battier had one of the greatest college basketball careers of anyone during his four years at Duke. Studying under Coach K, Battier recognized his role on the young Duke team, and under his leadership, the team excelled in all areas.
He was the final player remaining from the 1997 recruiting class that featured Elton Brand, William Avery, and Corey Maggette. All three of the above mentioned players left Duke early to play in the NBA. That was not, however, the way Battier wanted to leave his mark on Duke.
He returned for his fourth and final season at Duke with high hopes and a very talented group of young players. Amongst those on the team were Chris Duhon, Jason Williams, Dahntay Jones, Mike Dunleavy Jr., Nate James, and Carlos Boozer.
A team full of NBA talent, yes, but could this team set aside their differences and work together as a team?
That question, along with many others, were quickly answered by the Duke squad themselves.
Meshing together nicely and proving they could be lethal at both the offensive and defensive ends, the team was destined for greatness from the beginning.
However, there were some bumps in the road along the way.
One of the greatest comeback victories in all of sports occurred on January 27, 2001.
The game featured No. 2 Duke vs No. 8 Maryland for their first of four games during the 2001 season.
The Duke Blue Devils trailed the Maryland Terrapins by 10 points with just 54 seconds remaining on the clock. Jason Williams had one of the greatest 13-second scoring bursts in the history of basketball, scoring eight points over that time including two three-pointers.
Nate James then tied the game by hitting two clutch free throws down the stretch, extending the game into overtime and crushing the Terrapins hopes and dreams in the time-span of one minute.
Thus, "The Miracle Minute" was born.
During OT, Duke made several clutch baskets on offense and shut down Maryland on the defensive end. One of the most spectacular defensive plays of the night was when Battier blocked Juan Dixon's lay-up with just over a second left in the game, preserving Duke's huge comeback win.
Many believed that this win would give the Blue Devils new found confidence when they faced their arch rival UNC in their next game. Those people, however, were wrong.
UNC got the best of Duke in a 85-83 thriller, a loss that seemed to crush the Blue Devils at the time. However, they bounced back and went on to win several key ACC games down the stretch.
The most horrifying game of the season for Duke was the one against Maryland on Shane Battier's Senior Night. Carlos Boozer injured his foot and left the game, and the Terps finally got a win against Duke that season. The Devils' luck seemed to have run out.
With Boozer out, Coach K decided to go with a smaller, yet faster, starting lineup. The move saw Chris Duhon switch to point guard and Jason Williams to shooting guard. This propelled Duke to six straight victories, which included winning the ACC Championship and making it to the NCAA Sweet 16.
Carlos Boozer then made his return to the team, giving Duke another key piece of the puzzle it needed for the championship run.
In the East Regional Finals, Duke defeated the USC Trojans 79-69, placing the Blue Devils in the NCAA Final Four. Their next opponent—the Maryland Terrapins, a team that had already played Duke three times that season.
The previous game occurred in the ACC Championship Semifinals, a game in which Duke won by a score of 84-82 on a last second tip-in by Nate James. The fourth and final game between the two schools, however, would be the most interesting of them all.
Maryland came out firing against the Blue Devil defense, taking a commanding 39-17 lead with just under seven minutes to play in the first half. Duke made a run towards the end of the half, but the Terps still led at halftime, 49-38.
Coach K must have really fired the guys up during halftime, because after the second half was underway, the Devils never looked back.
Turning in their second great comeback against Maryland on the season, Duke won by a score of 95-84.
The 22-point deficit at one point in the game and the 11-point half time deficit are the largest in Final Four history by the winning team.
The final test for Duke—the fifth ranked Arizona Wildcats, led by Gilbert Arenas, Richard Jefferson, and coach Lute Olson.
Duke took early control of the game, but Arizona continued to make strong runs to keep the game interesting. Under the leadership of Arenas, the Wild Cats stormed back to nearly even the game with only a few minutes left. The Blue Devils never relinquished the lead, however, and won by a convincing score of 82-72.
The double-digit win in the final made the the 2001 Blue Devils the first Duke team to win every NCAA tournament game by 10 points or more.
The 2001 National Player of the Year awards' were swept up by Duke players Shane Battier and Jason Williams.
Battier won the AP National Player of the Year Award, the Oscar Robertson Trophy, the Wooden Award, the Naismith Award, the Adolph Rupp Award, and the NABC Defensive Player of the Year.
Jason Williams received the NABC Player of the Year award.
There was also a pattern between Duke's 1992 and 2001 NCAA Championship victories—the road to the championship went from Greensboro to Philadelphia to Minneapolis.
The 2001 Duke basketball season is one for the ages. Although the Blue Devils' lost their way at times throughout the year, they always came back with more intensity and passion for the game.
The championship run in 2001 is the moment of the decade that will be treasured by all Duke fans for years to come; that is, of course, until we get that fourth NCAA championship.