Very few predicted that Wisconsin and Duke would meet in this year’s championship games. Sure, the teams are both talented. Sure, both Bo Ryan and Mike Krzyzewski are great coaches. Still, event the experts weren’t predicting this game. The media, unquestionably rooted for a Duke/Kentucky final but the Wisconsin Badgers had other plans, knocking off a previously undefeated Kentucky team. In fact only 4.9% of the millions who filled out Final Four brackets had the Duke-Wisconsin matchup. But oh what a great final game it was!
The game itself was back and forth for the entire first half as the teams went to the locker room tied at 31. Actually, this was the first time since 1988 that there was a tie in the National Championship game at the half. NBA-bound Jahlil Okafor marginalized himself early in the 2nd half by picking up his third foul. Fellow teammate Justice Winslow suffered the same fate, forcing Duke to reshuffle their lineup. After building a nine point lead in the second half, and with the Duke big men in foul trouble, the Badgers seemed primed to seal the deal. Over the next 10 minutes however, the Blue Devils slowly chipped away at that deficit on the strength of their guard play. Led by freshmen guards Tyus Jones and Grayson Allen, the Blue Devils put the clamp down on Wisconsin and successfully shifted the momentum in their favor for the rest of the game. Jones was solid throughout with timely baskets and great leadership. Had you not known, you’d never guess this guy was only a freshman.
Wisconsin didn’t back down and made key baskets down the stretch to stay in it, but they also had some bad misses including a shot clock violation with 2:29 remaining. People can talk about the officiating but the real question is, where was Kaminsky down the stretch?? Apart from a layup, Kaminsky didn’t make a field goal since 30 seconds into the 2nd half.
Enough can’t be said about the spark Allen provided off the bench. He played well beyond his years and was a real difference maker. The game itself will go down as one of the better championship games in a long time, especially considering the two roads these teams took to get there. Duke may not have even been the best team in the tournament, but they took care of business when they had to. Congratulations to the Blue Devils, 2015 NCAA men’s basketball champions!