Duke Wins. Final Four Recap

With all due respect to Butler and Duke (OK, I don’t mean that. I don’t really respect Duke and their “basketball pwayers”), I’m relieved the NCAA tournament has finally concluded. With the exception of Monday night’s finale, the 2010 Final Four flopped.

I intended to devote an entire post to a Final Four recap. Unfortunately, the games were as awkward and enjoyable as Clark Kellogg’s game of H-O-R-S-E with President Obama. Thankfully, Monday’s final provided a little more excitement and slightly better basketball. So, without further ado, here’s a recap of Monday night’s thriller and a tardy summary of the Final Four snooze-fest on Saturday.

Butler 59 Duke 61
On Monday afternoon I spoke to my dad about who we thought would win the NCAA Men’s Final later that evening. Duke was the obvious choice, but my dad and I both agreed that if Butler could keep Duke under 60, they’d have a legitimate shot of pulling an upset. Why my dad and I don’t have our own TV show, I have no clue. We were right on. Butler smothered Duke’s offense and remained in striking distance thanks in part to timely buckets, 12 Blue Devil turnovers, and a scrappy mentality. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough.

Before I complain about two blown calls, let me acknowledge that Duke was the better team on Monday night, and the rightful champions. They weren’t the best group of athletes or the most talented players in the country, but they did a lot of things well; defense, rebounding, hustling, savvy basketball, etc… Duke also fought their way through the toughest region in the 2010 Tourname… uhh, oh that’s right. They came from the JV division. I forgot. Scratch that. Enough about Duke’s goodness. (Note: I intentionally refrained from using “greatness.”) How about those bad calls?

In a game decided by only two points, it’s fun to go back and find particular calls that could have swayed the outcome of the game. As an “anyone who plays Duke” fan, I immediately recalled two blown calls, both in Duke’s favor.

The first was sometime in the second half when Jon Scheyer elevated to snatch a rebound for a quick put-back. Two points. Nice play, except that it looked like goaltending. Jim Nantz and Clark Kellogg were too busy elsewhere to address the questionable put-back. Luckily enough, my friend and I were on the case. After rewinding and reviewing the play, the ball looked awfully close to being within the cylinder. We both agreed it should have been goaltending, but understood that a ref’s view may have contributed to the no call. Regardless, Nantz and Kellogg needed to pay more attention to the game and less time wondering if Mike Krzyzewski was at one time an elf.

The second call was unquestionably a horrendous call, again involving Jon Scheyer. Butler forward, Gordon Hayward (whom my friend and I both agreed still gets carded at R rated movies), drove to the rim, drew contact from Scheyer, and finished off the glass. Three point play coming. Or not. The official on the baseline whistled Hayward for a charge even though Scheyer was obviously moving AND standing two feet from the rim. A horrible, horrible, call. Even Kellogg thought it was a bad call. Instead of moving to within a basket of Duke, Butler still trailed by four.

There you have it. Two questionable (actually one questionable, one awful) calls that went against Butler and could have turned a two point defeat upside down. And no, there were no questionable calls in Butler’s favor. I checked.

Speaking of questionable, Matt Howard’s mustache caused some discomfort for the viewing audience where I watched the game. C’mon, Matt. Did the stache work out for Adam Morrison? No sir. If Howard didn’t sport the stache on Monday night he may have finished around the rim with more efficiency and not played himself into silly foul trouble either. While unlikely, it is possible. Mustaches are powerful things.

What’s worse, Donovan McNabb showed up to his press conference on Tuesday sporting a stache as well. Obviously, his was much nicer and more professional than Howard’s, but the lesson remains: Mustaches don’t win championships.

Let’s also give Butler credit for scrapping their way to the championship game with smothering defense, rebounding, and a redshirting head coach. Seriously though, Butler has some nice players. Unfortunately, it became clear on Monday night that none were talented enough to finish around the rim with the exception of Hayward, who is now officially my favorite basketball player in the world.

It was a great run by Butler. It was also refreshing to see two teams that play like cohesive units battle it out for the title. Obviously, I’m not a Duke fan, but they play fundamentally sound team basketball. They played it slightly better than Butler on Monday night, and that is why they’re national champions.

Final Four
This will be brief, very brief.

Toward the end of the Butler Michigan State slop fest, CBS’s Jim Nantz used “nail biter” to describe the game. Sorry, Jim. A nail-biter entails excitement, excellence, and suspense. Field goal droughts of ten plus minutes are painful and don’t qualify for any of the aforementioned adjectives. I mean sure, I was biting my nails because I was bored, but that’s about it.

The West Virginia and Duke matchup was the final blow to the Big East’s supremacy argument. No other conference crashed and burned as abruptly in March Madness as the Big East. Duke killed WVU in every facet of the game with the exception of devastating injuries and “crying players/consoling coach” hugs.

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