NCAA Tournament Running Diary: Duke-Wisconsin

Duke 68 Wisconsin 63 FINAL

Wisconsin suddenly became bashful about shooting in the final moments and wasted way too much time while Duke did what they always do and made the majority of their free throws down the stretch. Tyus Jones lead the way with 23 points for Duke while Grayson Allen dropped in 16. Frank Kaminsky was again terrific with 21 points and 12 rebounds for Wisconsin but it wasn’t enough for the opportunistic Blue Devils.

Duke wins its fifth national title and coach K becomes even MORE legendary. But really, this was a great coaching job by him because he only had eight high school All-Americans this time around. The title caps a very impressive tournament for the ACC (more on that later this week) and puts a feather in the cap for Duke’s seniors and freshmen who will soon be leaving because that’s how college basketball is now.

Congratulations to Duke on the tremendous performance this season and especially tonight in a great game against a very talented Wisconsin squad.


Wow. Pretty extraordinary non-reversal on the out of bounds tip and Tyus Jones then comes down and nails an enormous 3-pointer…immediately answered by the Badgers of course. 66-62 Duke. Badgers cut it to 66-63 and we all need oxygen.


Things have picked up to a frenetic pace and the lead is ping-ponging between teams. Tyus Jones has joined Grayson Allen as the guys to spark Duke here down the stretch. Jones and Frank Kaminsky are tied for the scoring lead with 18 points a piece. Under four minutes now. Hold on to anything that’s bolted down.


Okafor returned ever so briefly before picking up his fourth foul on another spinning drive by Kaminsky. Grayson Allen is Duke’s leading scorer as everyone predicted with 14 points. Okafor simply a non-factor tonight and he hasn’t scored since midway through the first half.


Three fouls on Winslow now too. Duke burns another timeout as the Badgers are feeling it up 48-39. The Blue Devils are taking uncharacteristically bad shots and rushing a bit on offense. Grayson Allen is officially the next big thing. He single-handedly closed the lead back to three points. Nigel Hayes knocks down a clutch fastbreak 3-pointer to push it back to a six-point Badger lead under 12 minutes.


The Badgers came out with a quick little run to “open up” a five-point lead. Kaminsky made a smooth little cut past Okafor who has to be careful defending with two fouls so early in the second half.

He’s also doing probably the best job of anyone this season defending Okafor. That was a great post move by Kaminsky that time again, but it looked like a clean block by Okafor on the foul. He now has three. Just a really fun battle to watch.


It’s just inexplicable that Wisconsin settled for iffy shots with Okafor and Winslow both on the bench at the end of the half. We’re tied at 31 largely because the Badgers didn’t take advantage of mismatches when they presented themselves. While my pick of Sam Dekker as a difference-maker looks good, so does that of Amile Jefferson.

It’s even more crucial because Jahlil Okafor has been relatively quiet with six points and two rebounds. Duke does have five blocks which is one away from a season-high by an opponent of the Badgers. Frank Kaminksy has seven points and seven boards while Dekker and Nigel Hayes both scored a game-high eight points. The Blue Devils have seven fouls to just two for Wisconsin, but those will even up in the second half because officials always do that for some reason.


Now two fouls on Jahlil Okafor as well as Winslow. My guy Dekker has been the most opportunistic player I think I’ve seen all season, scoring eight points with all of them coming on second chance buckets. Wisconsin now has eight offensive boards and Duke is still stuck on two. Justise Winslow is playing well with two fouls, at least in part because the Badgers aren’t attacking him.


The officials are reeeeeaaaallly milking the airtime on these block/charge calls. Of course, it’s possible they’re just making a really slow, entirely arbitrary decision. Duke has gained some momentum but it isn’t a full-on run yet. Two fouls on Justise Winslow won’t do anything to change that. Wisconsin has done a better job of running their sets and slowing things down on the offensive end. They also have six offensive rebounds to just two for Duke. That’s something to keep an eye on as the night progresses.


The Wisconsin ball movement has been a little sloppy which is unusual for them. Duke on the other hand isn’t really capitalizing on their chances in the half court either missing a number of shots from in close.

13-12 Duke up midway trough the first half. Man we need that 30-second shot clock next season.


We’ve seen early why Frank Kaminsky is the national player of the year. He has tremendous range and is doing a great job on defense shielding Jahlil Okafor. Wisconsin has to settle down though. They keep trying to run which won’t work for them. Duke is doing the right thing and pushing the ball up court as fast as they possibly can. That’s how they’ll win if they can pull this out.


I know the NCAA wants to capitalize on the primetime audience, but these late starts for their championship games on weeknights are incredibly lame. These kids have class in the morning! #studentathletes I’ve been trying to decide which random player is going to have a big game and make the difference in the championship. I’m leaning towards Amile Jefferson of Duke because he just has an incredible knack for being in the right place when he needs to be. Sam Dekker isn’t exactly unheralded for the Badgers, but I have a feeling he’ll go off if they win this thing.

On an unrelated note, I got very excited about a commercial for gyros until I realized they were from Arby’s.

PREGAME 8:14 p.m.

Another college basketball season will be in the books after tonight and either Duke or Wisconsin will be crowned national champions. Mike Krzyzewski leads Duke into the title game for the ninth time in his 35 seasons in Durham. Coach K is 4-4 in his previous appearances. Bo Ryan won four titles at Division III Wisconsin–Platteville and has lead Wisconsin to two consecutive Final Fours. The Badgers avenged a 74-73 loss to Kentucky in the 2014 national semifinal by giving the Wildcats their first lost this season in the semifinal Saturday.

These teams met earlier in the year when Duke prevailed with an 80-70 victory over then No. 2 Wisconsin. The Blue Devils haven’t lost a rematch this season and only North Carolina came close to winning the second match up falling by seven points. No other team lost by fewer than 19 points the second time around.


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