Divine intervention couldn’t deliver the No.1 ranked Duke Blue Devils a victory in a hard-fought yet sloppily played game against Michigan State on the last day of March. The hottest Men’s college basketball team in the nation failed to advance to the ‘Final Four’ in large part due to a lopsided turnover 17-7 turnover differential.
The game started out just like their last three contests did, with them stumbling out of the blocks from the onset of the game as they missed each other in transition with errant passes and left the Spartans open with favorable looks early and often. This led them to trail 34-30 at the half with the feeling that they would once again overcome a slow start and find their footing.
They would go on to play better in the second half behind the sensational play of stalwart freshman Zion Williamson who scored 17 of his game-high 24 points in the final 20 minutes. He also finished the game as well as his collegiate career with another double-double with a game-high 14 rebounds.
The Angel that has been hovering over the Blue Devils’ shoulder in their last two single possession games against UCF and Virginia Tech must have been out of the office or in the bathroom during the final minute if this contest. Duke had a one-point advantage before the Spartans were able to take a two-point lead following a three-pointer senior Kenny Goins.
This set the stage for yet another down to the wire of finish that would either end in a last-second victory with a three-pointer of their own or a taking the game into overtime with a tying bucket. Freshman RJ Barrett opted to go for the tie and possibly the win when he opted to forgo a shot from behind the arc and chose to instead drive in for a layup and hopefully draw the ‘and one’ foul.
Barrett was able to draw the shooting foul, but his shot fell just short of the rim. This meant that he would have to convert his two tries from the charity stripe to send the game into OT. Unfortunately for Duke and all of the Blue Devil fans that were once again on the edge of their seats with unbearable anticipation, Barrett was only able to make one of his two free throws and they were unable to get the ball back in the final seconds, sealing their fate and abruptly ending their season.
The good news for Duke fans is that they can stop having to refill their heart medication for those with hypertension or other cardiac diseases because they won’t have to worry about sitting through another nail-biting finish in the Final Four. Sadly, the final result also ends what was an exhilarating season for all of college basketball when they were on the court.
It also means that legendary Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski, commonly known as Coach K, will have to reload and replenish his roster with another fantastic recruiting class since his top three first-year players are all expected to be top picks in this year’s NBA draft. Williamson is considered the consensus sure-fire No.1 overall pick and Barrett, as well as forward Cam Reddish, are both projected to be selected early as well.