Wisconsin gave it their best shot. Then Duke counter-punched.
And got the knockout.
The Blue Devils overcame a nine-point deficit in the second half of the men's basketball title game, sprinting to a 68-63 victory.
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The most surprising part? It's hard to pick one.
You can start with the fact that somehow, someway, Mike Krzyzewski is still leading teams to championships at 68 years old. Perhaps it's the concept that Coach K has now won titles 24 years apart, with his first coming in 1991.
Or maybe it's the fact that the wily old ball coach just won the big dance with one of his youngest squads ever, a team led by a trio of likely one-and-done freshmen who are the opposite of what was long known as the Duke way.
It was a long ride, this March Madness. And at its finish line, here's a last gasp analysis of what's been a breathtaking journey.
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The Young Guns Rule
If anything, this season was one for the kiddos.
That trend continued in the national title game.
Duke center Jahlil Okafor scored 10 points and forward Justise Winslow had 11 of his own.
But it was actually the team's least-heralded freshman who led the way for the Blue Devils. Tyus Jones scored 23 points, added five rebounds and was named Final Four MVP after scoring two huge threes in the final five minutes.
What made the championship picture even more picture perfect?
The 6-foot-1 Jones and the 6-foot-11 Okafor were USA Basketball and grade school buddies who, on this night, shared college basketball's pinnacle.
For a while, it seemed as if a few of college's old guard would spoil the pair's special night.
Wisconsin's Gone Gains
For most of the game, Frank Kaminsky — that 7-foot center who returned for his senior season to win a national title — dominated Okafor.
He would finish with 21 points and 12 rebounds on 7-of-16 shooting, an impressive swan song, but not enough to walk away victorious. Junior Sam Dekker, another tournament darling, scored 12 points but missed all six of his three-pointers.
The Badgers had the lead at a critical juncture.
Kaminsky made a layup off of an assist from guard Josh Gasser, another senior, stretching the Wisconsin lead to 48-39. It looked like the Badgers, after a hard-fought first half that ended even, were finally pulling away thanks to their veterans.
But Grayson Allen made a scooping layup on a broken play, and suddenly Duke was back in it. The little-used guard scored 16 points in 21 minutes, providing a huge spark off the bench while becoming the team's second-highest scorer for the game.
Oh, and yes, he too is a freshman.
Marching into history
With the win, Coach K earned his fifth title.
That makes him second on the all-time list. The only man above him was named John Wooden (you may have heard of him and his 10 championships).
Duke is now tied with North Carolina and Indiana for the third-most championships by school, with five. Only Kentucky (seven) and UCLA (11) best the Blue Devils.
Okafor, likely the No. 1 pick, can now head to the draft with no regrets. Winslow and Jones can also test their luck with the lottery's ping pong balls as well. Heck, with that final performance, maybe Allen should just declare already and see what happens.
And back in Durham, Coach K will take a break before preparing another squad to do what his teams always seem to do.
Win. Win. Win.
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