Although Duke beat mid-major Butler for its fourth title under head coach Mike Krzyzewski Monday night, 61-59, it was a captivating game from beginning to end.
Butler, the little team that could from Indianapolis, Indiana, went head to head with the Blue Devils, as the Bulldogs had the Blue Devils in a bind, a No. 1 seed baffled that a No. 5 seed was baring down its neck in much of the first half as it was in the second.
Yes, the Devils had the height advantage and played better defense, but the opportunistic Butler almost capitalized on last-minute mistakes by Duke, such as the missing layup by guard Nolan Smith in the paint and a couple of uncharacteristic turnovers.
Unfortunately, it was not enough in the end, as the "Big Three" of Smith, Jon Scheyer, and Kyle Singler, with the addition of seven-foot-plus center Greg Zoubek's imposing presence, seemed to overwhelm Butler in the last five to six minutes of the national title game.
Butler had several more offensive rebounds than Duke in the first half, but foul trouble, uncohesive team play, and rushed shots in the second half were perhaps the most frustrating and obvious reasons as to why they didn't pull it off at the end.
The Bulldogs played valiantly throughout the season under the guidance of 33-year-old Boy Wonder head coach Brad Stevens, and they gave higher ranked teams fits all the way to Lucas Oil Stadium, including against Michigan State last Sat.
Although the David vs. Goliath metaphor works better in Hollywood than in real-life sports scenarios, this game almost ended in a way that would have been regarded as the sequel to the 1980s film "Hoosiers," if Butler's Gordon Hayward had made that improbable half-court three-pointer with mere seconds left on the clock.
But the orange sphere hit the backboard, then in and out of the rim, with one of the most unpredictable and most captivating of NCAA tournaments ended in what many will review years from now on DVRs and ESPN Classic.
Scrappy Butler, riding on a 25-game winning streak, made it really close and almost pulled it off, but…sadly, the better team won.