INDIANAPOLIS -- With Duke celebrating, Butler retreating to the locker room, and 70,000 fans holding their breath one second and trying to catch it the next, among the best NCAA tournaments in recent memory -- and perhaps the final one with 65 schools -- ended with Mike Krzyzewski winning his fourth national title late Monday night.
It ended with Matt Howard's jaw-dropping screen.
It ended with Gordon Hayward's half-court heave.
And now it's time to look back.
Matt Jones: What might have been for Butler
Let's do the NCAA tournament Look Back:
The champion is: Duke. The Blue Devils beat Arkansas-Pine Bluff, California, Purdue, Baylor, West Virginia and Butler to win their fourth national championship, their first since 2001. They finished as ACC regular-season co-champions, ACC tournament champions, and NCAA tournament champions with a 35-5 record, this despite having no natural point guard, only three guards total, and zero likely lottery picks. Hats off, Coach K. You are a master.
The tournament's best game was: Duke-Butler. It ended with a half-court shot flying through Lucas Oil Stadium that would make Butler the champion if it fell through, Duke the champion if it didn't. It was just an incredible scene and moment, the kind that makes even typically calm sports writers yell or wince or smile or whatever. The point is that everybody had a reaction. Most of them included words like wow or god or holy sh-t. When Hayward's final field goal attempt banked off the rim and fell to the ground, Duke had recorded a 61-59 victory that'll forever be remembered as a classic. It's a classic because of the story of a Horizon League school playing for a championship, because it happened six miles from that Horizon League school's campus, because neither team never led by more than six, and because the outcome wasn't determined until after the final horn sounded.
The tournament's biggest surprise was: Butler advancing to the title game, for certain. But Kansas losing to Northern Iowa in the second round was just as shocking. How about Michigan State advancing to its sixth Final Four in 12 years despite losing Kalin Lucas? Purdue advancing to the Sweet 16 despite losing Robbie Hummel? And Baylor leading the eventual national champions with less than four minutes left in an Elite Eight game despite being picked 10th in the preseason Big 12 poll? There were lots of surprises in this tournament. That's why it was a great tournament.
Four things I'll never forget
|Ali Farokhmanesh turned himself into a household name this year. (Getty Images)|
2. Jordan Crawford's 40-footer at the end of the first overtime -- and Gus Johnson's call -- in Xavier's double-overtime loss to Kansas State.
3. Tom Izzo crying after Korie Lucious hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer in Michigan State's win over Maryland.
4. Bob Huggins holding Da'Sean Butler and caressing his face as the senior star screamed in pain after tearing his ACL against Duke.
Four coaches who made themselves money
1. Brad Stevens: He'll get a big raise from Butler or take a big payday from somebody else (Oregon?). Either way, he's getting paid.
2. Steve Donahue: What happens when you lead an Ivy League school like Cornell to the Sweet 16? You get an ACC job (in this case, Boston College) and your salary tripled.
3. Tom Izzo: He'll use reports of Oregon's willingness to make him the sport's highest-paid coach to get more money from Michigan State. If ever a coach was worth every penny, Izzo is that coach.
4. Oliver Purnell: He lost in the first round for the sixth time, and his string of NCAA tournament appearances without a win remains intact. But Purnell still managed a seven-year contract from DePaul worth more than $15 million, which proves you don't have to achieve success in March to make a ridiculous amount of money in this sport. You just have to be willing to take a bad job and work for an incompetent athletic director. Seriously, good for Purnell. He's one of the best dudes in the business, and regardless of what happens at DePaul, he will someday retire a wealthy man.
G: Jacob Pullen (Kansas State)
G: Jordan Crawford (Xavier)
F: Gordon Hayward (Butler)
F: Kyle Singler (Duke)
C: Omar Samhan (Saint Mary's)
Coach: Mike Krzyzewski* (Duke)
(*A lot of you have e-mailed to ask if I know why Krzyzewski instructed Brian Zoubek to miss his second free throw with 3.6 seconds remaining rather than make it and increase the lead to 62-59. So let me answer the inquiry here by telling you that I have no idea. I mean, I know Krzyzewski's explanation, but it makes no sense. A make in that spot ensures there's no way to lose in regulation and that the absolute worst-case scenario is overtime if Butler somehow hits a miraculous shot. On the other hand, a miss in that spot means a miraculous shot beats you. So I can't begin to understand why you'd rather put yourself in a place where a miraculous shot creates a loss instead of a tie, but whatever. It all worked out for Coach K, just barely.)
Final thought: Butler's rise to national prominence over the past three weeks has people wondering if the Bulldogs have changed (or will change) college basketball. If you're one of those people, please, stop wondering. It's a clichéd idea, cheap storyline, and, most notably, utterly ridiculous.
What, you think Brandon Knight is suddenly going to look at Horizon League schools?
You think Bill Self is going to stop recruiting Josh Selby and start looking for unheralded "team players"?
What Butler did was unique and special and fun to watch, but it is not a sign of things to come any more than George Mason's run to the Final Four was a sign of things to come. The best recruits will still almost exclusively go to the biggest programs, and the programs with the best recruits will still almost always comprise the bulk of the Final Four. Kansas and Kentucky will reload, as will Syracuse, Texas, North Carolina and Georgetown. Butler still won't get on television as much or be able to recruit in the same circles as often as any of them, and the private school might not even be able to prevent one of them -- or somebody like one of them -- from buying its hotshot coach right out from underneath it.
We're talking about two different worlds here.
It was a blast watching them collide.
But the reality is that the gap between the haves and have-nots in college athletics is growing wider by the day, and some magical story isn't going to slow the process. Butler will still be good next season, and perhaps for many seasons to come, because the school has a unique niche. But you'll be disappointed if you're expecting Butler's run to ignite some grand shift in the sport. It's not going to happen. The rich will still get richer and the poor will still mostly stay poor. Don't believe me? Ask Siena and Cornell, both of which just lost their successful coaches to bottom-tier Big Ten and ACC programs.
So enjoy what just happened at Butler.
Cherish it, even.
But don't be so naive as to think it'll change college basketball.
Everything will get back to normal shortly, probably as soon as next season.