Those damn Dukies did it again, and they mauled some Cats in another wild Final Four game.
On Monday night, the Blue Devils concluded the Madness that was March by completing a men’s college basketball season in exceptional fashion, topping the University of Arizona, 82-72. And of all players to step up to the stage and outperform every other All-American, it was Duke sophomore forward Mike Dunleavy who thrived in the spotlight.
Though Dunleavy canned three-pointers in 46 seconds to put the purr back in the Cat and provided a monumental lift with his 18 second-half points, no one player made this tourney special.
There was a host of players, from St. Joseph’s classy senior Marvin O’Conner performing his 37-point beauty against a humbled Stanford team to the Fightin’ Illini’s Frank Williams torching Kansas with 30 points and a steadiness that would make a corpse twitch. With Hampton, Georgia State, Kent State, and Big West representative Utah State providing a plethora of upsets, the game has never seen such competitiveness between so many conferences.
Utah State and the other Cinderellas with championship dreams proved that any basketball team with desire, focus and consistency can run with college basketball’s cream of the crop.
This tournament had more surprises than UA senior forward Michael Wright pulling a disappearing act fit for the witness protection program, as Wright endured a 60-minute drought in the middle of the tournament against Illinois and the first half versus Michigan State.
But the tournament was about players driving teams, and teams driving players. Sixty-four teams go out swinging for the hardware, and only one team, one group of players stands above the rest. If Duke was the knight in shining armor, then the other 63 teams (64 if you count Winthrop) are the squires in modest regalia.
Duke was Duke, winning in the Metrodome, in the same locker room as it had won during its last title run in the 1991-92 season. In the Land of 10,000 Lakes, the Blue Devils seemed like they had 10,000 different ways to send their opponent to the grave, and of course, that’s just the way the Dukies planned it.
Eliav Appelbaum needs some sweet lovin’. He picked Illinois to win the whole damn thing.