Somewhere atop college basketball’s Mount Olympus, Dr. James Naismith had a peach basket-sized grin on his face.
Iba, Haskins, and Rupp put down their playing cards, cigars, and single malts to pay homage to the purest 40 minutes of college basketball played in a championship setting in a long while.
Somewhere in the Pantheon of college basketball greats, Al McGuire celebrated the championship game’s toughness by moonwalking across the parquet floor at the celestial mansion. As the clock struck zero, the late Marquette great punched the butler and belly laughed in true Coach Al fashion.
For both basketball purists and casuals alike, this game’s ending had one quibble—the winner. Hey, college basketball gods! That shot is supposed to go, if all is right in the world.
From their lofty perch, these greats would likely disagree. Go ahead and tell this curmudgeonly group of old coaching warhorses that Jimmy Chitwood was supposed to hit that shot. Tell them the game didn’t go according to plan. I dare you.
They’d look at such whiners with utter disdain, shortly before ashing their cigars on your forehead and reminding you that teams who go 13 minutes without a field goal don’t deserve a 1-4 low set with an Indiana phenom making a buzzer beater.
You don’t deserve Hoosiers .
Gordon Hayward will get a half court prayer and like it. And he almost did.
What the college basketball world witnessed last night in the Mecca of high school basketball was anything but mythological. Sure, there was the David and Goliath story, and that always makes for compelling television and copy.
However, the real story lines were two-fold. First, this game proved teams can be successful playing the game as it was designed to be played—with defense, rebounding and toughness, instead of shooting, more shooting and dunking.
Classic basketball that stays in front of the dribbler, and plays perfect positional ball-you-man defense away from it. Blocking out is passé? Like hell it is. Rebounding out of your area? Ludicrousness! Put your body on somebody.
And give me some masterful defensive tweaks. Like when the upstart coaching phenom Brad Stevens played Lance Thomas the same way the master himself, Coach K, played UNLV’s George Ackles two decades earlier. Except Duke had Kyle Singler, John Scheyer, and Nolan Smith, while Vegas had Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon, and Greg Anthony.
It’s the kind of ironic full-circle of events that Al McGuire would relish.
The other interesting story line was this college basketball game was played with, well, collegians. There weren’t any one-and-done or two-and-done guys on these squads.
No mercenaries or hired hoopology scholars.
Duke and Butler’s players are actual students, evidenced by a group Bulldogs actually attending class six miles from the championship site the morning of game day. No hot tubs with loan sharks or rain-making in clubs.
Novel idea, this studying component.
This game was about The Game and nothing more, which is kind of cool when you think about it. It’s something that doesn’t really need to be broken down. Team A guarded and rebounded against team B the way you’re supposed to.
Team B returned the favor and came one possession short of a huge upset in a game that featured over 140 possessions.
For one shining moment the basketball gods were appeased. My only complaint is that they screwed up our song. I guess something had to break from tradition.
Whither Luther Vandross?
Kevin writes the leading college hoops blog March To March.
Follow him on Twitter: @MarchToMarch