By Josh Wiggins
PSDC March Madness Contributor
March Madness is over. Duke is your 2015 NCAA champion after defeating Wisconsin in a tightly contested finale, and we are left waiting until next season for the reappearance of college basketball. This game was the perfect ending to a tremendous tournament, featuring two of the best teams battling until the very end.
From the minute the game tipped off, it was clear that this matchup would be exciting. With both teams playing at a furious pace and the lead constantly changing hands for the first 20 minutes, the teams entered the half tied at 31. Once the second half started, we saw both teams begin to get into a more steady rhythm, and the back and forth lead changes were more drawn out. As the finish grew closer, the Badgers seemed to be in control holding a nine-point lead with only seven minutes to play; however, the Duke freshmen refused to give up. In a situation that tends to favor experience, Tyus Jones and Grayson Allen elevated their play, and led Duke to a victory.
Coming into this game, many expected Kaminsky and Dekker or Jahlil Okafor to be the reason their teams would win, and with good reason. But as the time wore down and the tension cranked up, we saw Grayson Allen come off the bench and ignite his team. Driving to rim and sliding all over the court, he was able to give the Blue Devils a spark. We saw Tyus Jones keep his team in the game as Wisconsin built an early second-half lead, and then we saw him put the game away as Duke surged past the Badgers at the end.
Players rising to the occasion like this are the reason that March Madness is so special. When you watch an NBA game, you expect stars like LeBron James and Kevin Durant to be the guys their teams rely on, and they deliver more often than not. In college basketball, where even the best players are still learning, anyone on the court has the opportunity to be the best player in the game. With Okafor in foul trouble and Quinn Cook struggling, Jones and Allen stepped up and won a national championship for their school. That is special.
Coming into the Final Four, we knew these coaches would play a huge role in their teams’ success, and the championship game was no different.
Coach K won his fifth national championship, and in doing so, likely cemented himself as the best college coach ever not named John Wooden. Sure, Duke consistently gets great players, but so do a lot of other schools. The amount of success that Krzyzewski has been able to achieve and sustain for so long is unprecedented. Quite a few people love to hate Coach K, but college basketball is better because he’s here.
Bo Ryan finally reached the championship game by beating the team most considered the best in the country, but the Badgers came up a bit short. After the game, Ryan took a couple of shots at the referees and at Duke’s young stars, which we could have done without. But as a coach, Bo Ryan had a great year. When you have a group of guys willing to pass up the NBA for a year and come back to try and win a title for your program, that says a lot. That said, you have to think this year was his best shot at bringing home that title, and his job will be much tougher next year without Kaminsky and Dekker.
So there you have it. Duke’s win over Wisconsin capped off one of the most competitive tournaments we have had in quite some time. There were a lot great games, and in the end, the best teams always found a way win. I don’t know about you, but I enjoyed every minute of it.
Follow Josh on Twitter: @JoshuaLWiggins