Nine Observations from the National Championship

  1. Mike Krzyzewski controlling the tempo with defense.

Krzyzewski put his coaching pedigree on a mantle for the nation to see Monday night, utilizing defensive schematics to dictate the pace of the game. Coach K deployed a man-zone hybrid scheme at the game’s outset with Justise Winslow inventing a new position of zone-post centerfielder. Winslow provided defensive help on basket cuts, and closed off driving lanes, while occupying the defensive responsibility of whichever Badger occupied the paint. However, Wisconsin’s well-developed foul-drawing tendencies showed themselves with Winslow and star center Jahlil Okafor encountering first-half foul trouble. Both players were forced to sit for extended periods of time toward the end of the half, at which point, Krzyzewski switched to a zone to slow down the pace of the game and shorten the rest of the half. In a game in which pace was a major point of emphasis heading in, Coach K’s gameplan and scheme flexibility gave Duke a distinct edge controlling the tempo.

coach k

  1. Duke’s bench comes to life.

Grayson Allen became the media darling after coming off the pine and injecting life into the Blue Devils with his passionate and aggressive play as well as his 16 points. While Allen garnered most of the headlines, forward Amile Jefferson adopted the role of unsung hero. Jefferson’s defensive effort against Frank Kaminsky was critical to Duke’s second-half comeback after subbing in for the foul-troubled and severely defensively-challenged Okafor. Heck, even Marshall Plumlee gave Duke nine solid minutes of screen setting on offense while going fairly unnoticed defensively, which is a good thing.

  1. Defense of Grayson Allen.

Allen’s 16 points and rugged, bull-headed drives to the rim earned him national attention, but his terrific effort and effectiveness on the defensive end shouldn’t go unpraised. Just as he did against Michigan State, Allen tormented Wisconsin’s guards on the perimeter with his hounding on-ball defense and constantly slipped through ball screens as if he was covered in Vaseline.


  1. Nigel Hayes made Duke pay.

There were certainly positives for the Badgers in this contest, and Hayes was one of them. Duke was content to leave Hayes unattended as he floated about the perimeter, with the Blue Devil defender assigned to Hayes repeatedly dropping into the paint to provide help on drives. The Badgers, however, posted a historical offensive efficiency rating for a reason this season as they continually found Hayes for open looks on the perimeter which he proceeded to bury, in turn burning the Blue Devils as he scored 13 points on 3-4 shooting from three.

  1. Frank Kaminsky’s mercy.

Kaminsky scored 21 points, grabbed 12 rebounds, put up 16 shots and earned six free throw attempts, yet he seemed bafflingly passive for much of the night. The seven-foot senior was essentially transferring million dollar checks from Okafor’s bank account to Karl-Anthony Towns’ with every exaggerated pump fake that sent the big man leaping into the air. Kaminsky was driving past Okafor at will and spinning him into a plethora of desperate swipes at the ball which resulted in fouls. As good as Kaminsky was, it seemed he could’ve been even better had he looked for his scoring opportunities more often. Everyone was waiting for Kaminsky to grab the reigns for the Badgers and guide them to a championship, but instead it seemed he obliged to Duke’s plea for mercy.

  1. The officiating.

The officiating was terr—wait Bo Ryan wants to speak.


  1. Duke’s curl play.

The Blue Devils break out their curl play a few times per game, and they had enormous success with it throughout the Tournament, including in the championship. While one guard handles the ball above the 3-point line, the other loops around the big man on the block who sets a down screen as the guard curls off, leaving him with an open lane at the rim. Duke got some key buckets and trips to the free throw line from their nifty curl play last night.

  1. Traevon Jackson is Allen Iverson.

This statement only resides as truth in the mind of Jackson. Watching Wisconsin is so much fun, and watching Jackson is so much the opposite of fun. He over dribbles, always has to have the ball, shoots early in the shot clock and thinks he is Allen Iverson.

  1. Tyus Jones has to leave for the NBA.

Wait. Never mind, I thought Jones was a senior and had to leave Duke. Jones’ maturity, clutch factor and tendency to rise on the grandest stages gives the freshman standout the aura of a 5th-year senior. Jones should perhaps leave for the NBA anyway because it’s hard to imagine his stock getting any higher than it is right now, but this guy is the standard when it comes to collegiate point guards and it would be a treasure to see him stick around in Durham for at least one more season.


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