While there is plenty of the “game for the ages” talk going around, one could suggest such glorifications are the result of a rare close finish in the Big Dance finale as opposed to the extraordinary quality of the game.
As fun and exciting as “Hoosiers Almost: The Sequel” was, it has to be noted that upon further examination this instant classic has some blemishes.
Yes, it had the perfect movie script story with mid-major darling Butler riding in on a 25-game winning streak. The Bulldogs from the Midwest with the fresh-faced kids and even fresher-faced coach, by way of DePauw and Eli Lily, taking on an east coast basketball dynasty was the perfect set up for an epic battle. Maybe even an incredible upset David v. Goliath proportions. All stuff the media and fans love.
While the game was certainly more entertaining than last year’s UNC beat down of Michigan State, the “game for the ages” and “instant classic” tags deserve a second look.
Of greatest note is the simple fact that for most of the second half of this game, neither team could score a field goal.
Regardless of whether it was nerves, fatigue or just bad shooting, Butler went over 7 ½ minutes in the second half without a field goal. That would have been the point where Duke (had they been shooting as well as they had in previous games) would typically have broken open the game.
The problem plagued Butler in both Final Four games, prompting coach Brad Stevens to tell David Letterman, "We'd never been to a Final Four, so I didn't realize they'd put a lid on the basket for 10 minutes in the second half."
But, although they led most of the second half, the Blue Devils couldn’t pull away. Instead, Duke scored exactly two field goals in the final ten minutes of the game keeping things interesting. With all due respect to both teams, that’s a little ugly…
Fact is, Duke’s poor shooting kept the game close and set up the last second shot that would have punctuated CBS newly buggered-up version of One Shining Moment. Duke was 5-17 from behind the arc (just 29.4%) and they shot an uncharacteristic 62.5% from the charity stripe going 10-16.
Duke also had 12 turnovers compared to Butler’s seven. Of course, a bunch of ACC teams would be happy with either number (just ask Ol’ Roy).
Just to keep the “Duke gets all the calls” crowd at bay, the Bulldogs shot two more free throws (18).
When the shouting dies down and the superlatives return to normal, this clearly was a wonderful basketball game replete with great stories. That said, let’s not rush it into the Hall of Fame just yet.