I haven’t blogged much this year about one of my ultimate sporting passions, the Duke men’s basketball team, because I know 95 percent of you hate Duke and/or don’t care about them, and I do try to keep the blog interesting to as many people as possible, while fulfilling the No. 1 goal I had when I started this thing: Entertain myself.
But Sunday night was special, topping off a fantastic weekend of NCAA Tournament action, as good a quartet of Elite 8 games as I remember in 30 years of watching March Madness.
So I’m going to spend a few words here talking about my Duke Blue Devils, who advanced to the Final Four.
This isn’t the prettiest Duke team ever in terms of style, they have their moments when they drive you crazy because four of the eight players are freshmen, and there were definitely times this season when I seriously doubted they’d be good enough to get to the Sweet 16, much less the Final Four.
But Sunday night, against a really good Gonzaga team, Duke did it. They made their 12th Final Four under the greatest coach of all time, Mike Krzyzewski. (John Wooden is the only other acceptable answer).
They did it without much offense from Jahlil Okafor, the man-child freshman center who’ll be the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft next year. They did it with lockdown defense from their only key senior, Quinn Cook, who was so emotional after finally realizing a dream that he broke down (above) in tears when it finally came true.
They did it thanks to a sophomore who never gets any love, Matt Jones, hitting big shot after big shot, and freshman Justise Winslow, who was the least-heralded of the Big 3 freshman signees last year but was by far the best during the last two weeks.
I have no idea if Duke can win the national title; as a spoiled Duke fan, I just hope they make the Final Four every year; that’s the goal.
It’s been five years since they’ve been there. I’m really happy they’re back.
Some other thoughts from a fabulous hoops weekend:
— Michigan State is the only improbable Final Four team this year, and even though the Spartans struggled way more than usual, you can’t be too surprised they’re here. Because they’re coached by Tom Izzo, a legend in his profession. This is by far his least-talented Final Four team, but man oh man, did they claw and scratch their way to two wins this weekend. Tremendous.
— The Kentucky-Notre Dame game. I mean… wow. What a sensational game. When the brackets came out I picked Notre Dame to peat the Wildcats in this round, partly because I believed they really could, and partly because I didn’t want to be like “the herd” picking Kentucky to go all the way.
And for 99 percent of the game, Notre Dame played perfectly. They shot well, defended everyone but Karl-Anthony Towns well (that guy is a beast, and impossible to stop in the low post), and with three minutes to go had the lead and the Kentucky fans were pooping in their pants about their perfect season going up in flames.
And then, the Irish just couldn’t finish. They took some ill-advised shots the last 3 possessions, UK made a couple foul shots with six seconds left, and it was over.
Incredibly dramatic, wonderful game, though.
**This has nothing to do with basketball but everything to do with the NCAA Tournament: I am so freaking sick of those Buick commercials. Dear Buick: I don’t care how many times you make me watch those ads, I’m not buying a Buick. (And as a Twitter follower of mine pointed out: Why the hell does that couple in the beginning have binoculars in their kitchen? Do they spy on their neighbors? Are they anti-Buick spies? Just general voyeurs? I’m brimming with questions).
– Wisconsin is so much fun to watch play, aren’t they? So well-coached, Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky are tremendous (though Kaminsky flops way too much), and they just share the ball beautifully. I think they beat Kentucky on Saturday.
— So we’ve got maybe the four best head coaches in the sport going head to head at the Final Four, with a perfect season on the line, two legendary blue-blood programs, and absolutely anyone could win the whole thing.
— And there are some people who think the NBA is better than college basketball. Insane.
**Finally today, I don’t really have much interest in checking out James Corden’s new late night show after Letterman; not really familiar with Corden, not awake watching TV at that hour, etc.
But if this skit he pulled the first week of his show is any indication of what’s to come, I’m excited. He and Mr. Tom Hanks spent six minutes re-creating scenes from every Hanks movie ever made. Pretty hilarious, and it gets better as it goes along (the “Sleepless in Seattle” one is my favorite.)