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Home - The Upset That Wasn’t

  The Upset That Wasn't

I’d like to mention the semifinal games, but the fact of the matter is that they meant nothing compared to the magnitude of the National Championship Game. They were a mismatched pair, Duke and Butler. Duke already has 3 National Championship and 15 Final Fours, and for Butler this was their 1st Final Four appearance.

duke basketballComing into the game, everyone considered Duke to be a huge favorite. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that when everyone is thinking mismatch, it tends to be a closer game than people think. So it was no surprise to me that this game was close. Butler led by one at halftime and the game continued to stay close in the 2nd half with the lead changing hands. With about 3 minutes left in the game Duke had finally stretched a lead to 5 and the cable went out at my friend’s place where I had been watching the game. I just assumed that Duke was going to continue to pull away. When the cable came back there was 13.7 seconds remaining with Duke only up 60-59 and Butler had the ball with a chance to take the lead. They really had a chance to win this. They inbounded and Gordon Hayward took a shot from the baseline with about 6 seconds remaining. As it left his hands you knew that it was a really tough shot to make with a defender in his face and it didn’t have much of a chance. It clanked off the rim and Duke’s Brian Zoubek got the rebound and was immediately fouled with 3.7 seconds remaining. Zoubek made the 1st free throw, stretching the lead to 61-59. He missed the 2nd, and the way he missed it I wasn’t sure if it was an intentional miss so that Butler couldn’t set up an inbound play. Gordon Hayward got the rebound for Butler and began zooming up the court. He let go a heave from midcourt that could win Butler the game. It hit the backboard, then the rim, and fell to the ground.

butler basketballDuke players immediately started swarming the court, and it was almost an awkward feeling. Except for Duke alumni, I think everyone was rooting for Butler. With championship game crowds, you get a lot of tickets going to sponsors of the event and upper middle class yuppies who don’t cheer passionately. However for this game the arena was rocking. The arena being only 6 miles from Butler campus may have helped to improve the atmosphere. CBS announcer Jim Nance called the environment “electric” and I would have to agree. The crowd was going crazy at points in the game you wouldn’t expect. It was a great game, and that is what’s most important. It’s just not the outcome that most of us wanted.

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