Coach K on why he told Zoubek to miss the second free throw

In his post game press conference, Mike Krzyzewski was asked about why he told Brian Zoubek to intentionally miss the second free throw, giving Butler an opportunity to win the game with a half-court shot. Here’s his response, via

On the last thing, they didn’t have any timeouts left. And if he missed, I thought it would take a miracle shot, you know. Well, it almost did. But we were set up to guard it. And Pat made a good point. Really, they’re not gonna call it at that time. But Kyle got killed at halfcourt, you know. So they wouldn’t have got it without that, ’cause Kyle was on Hayward, which is pretty good for a press guy to see that stuff.

But they would have to take a halfcourt shot. And we were set up to guard that. And, you know, what the hell, it worked. You know, there are many things that you do during a ballgame. Whatever the consequences are, you take it.

The general consensus is that Zoubek should have made the free throw, giving his team a three-point lead. That way, the worst-case scenario is overtime. Butler was out of timeouts, so there wasn’t an opportunity for Brad Stevens to draw up a play — they would have to go with whatever play they ran in practice. With 3.5 seconds on the clock, there was enough time for Gordon Hayward to get off a decent attempt.

But hey — it worked. If Zoubek hits the free throw, it’s possible that Butler completes a long pass and someone gets a good look at a game-tying three. Now the game is in overtime and Duke could very well lose.

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Duke/Butler reaction

Bob Kravitz, Indy Star: If this magical, marvelous run didn’t renew a little bit of your faith in sports — and specifically college basketball — it means you’ve already drowned in cynicism and are beyond hope. Unless you’re a Duke fan — and maybe even if you’re a Duke fan — how can you fail to see the beauty in what Butler accomplished these past few weeks? … Butler changes everything, the reality of college basketball and the perception of college basketball. Gonzaga began it years ago, consistently pulling upsets and reaching the Sweet Sixteen. Then there was George Mason in the Final Four. And now, it was Butler, one field goal short of winning it all. Now, will we go back to seeing pedigreed teams and million-dollar coaches from power conferences the next five years? Yeah, that’s possible, even likely. But Butler has shown the little guy CAN get to the final. The little guy CAN take mighty Duke down to the final possession. Maybe next time, a Butler — or another mid-major — will finish the job.

Andy Katz, ESPN: Duke won this national title by being Butler. The Blue Devils were just as tough, physical and defensive-minded as the Bulldogs throughout the game. This was the mantra of a Blue Devils team that was hardly the most talented but had the mindset of a mid-major, as highly recruited players stayed three or four years. They were about team defense, half-court defense and making stops when it mattered most. Associate head coach Chris Collins said prior to the game that the Blue Devils wouldn’t be in the Final Four, playing for the national championship, had it not been for Zoubek. He was put in the starting lineup against Maryland on Feb. 13 because sophomore Miles Plumlee wasn’t playing at a high enough level. Once Zoubek was there he never left, and he became a presence that changed the outcome of games.

Dennis Dodd, These guys played for him, and got better, when it was clear this was not one of Krzyzewski’s best teams. But there is ample evidence now to crown Coach K as the best of all time. Better than Knight, better than Rupp, better than — blasphemy be damned — Wooden. Wooden and Rupp were in a different age. They didn’t have to slog through six games to win it all each year. They also didn’t have to slog through the ACC each season. Student has now surpassed teacher in the case of Knight. The numbers are, and will continue to be, there. Monday’s victory was Krzyzewski’s 868th. He’s eight behind the third-place Rupp and 34 behind Knight at No. 1. No one has won more tournament games.

Gary Parrish, At some point, most figured, Duke would turn into Duke and Butler would remember it had a roster of three-star prospects, one of whom was dealing with a mild concussion. At some point, most figured, the out-manned and undersized Bulldogs would be overwhelmed by Duke’s three guards, let things get away from them, take a runners-up trophy and head back six miles to campus not necessarily happy but appreciative of the moment. There were many times when things seemed headed that direction. When Ronald Nored picked up a second early foul was one. When Matt Howard missed a third layup was another. But then Avery Jukes would sink an open jumper or Shelvin Mack would slice through the lane for a layup, and a game that often seemed on the verge of slipping away would suddenly be tight again. Butler just kept hanging around, never trailing by more than six. It all led to an incredible moment here at this downtown dome when, with 13.6 seconds remaining and the game paused for a timeout, Brad Stevens, the 33-year-old future star whose stardom is now present, diagrammed a play for Hayward to get the ball at the top of the key while 70,930 fans yelled and clapped and chanted, mostly for a Butler team that was behind 60-59. It was a moment that looked and felt special. Regardless of what happened from that point forward, the game was an all-timer.

ESPN Classic will rebroadcast the 2010 men’s national championship game between Butler and Duke as its Instant Classic on Tuesday, April 6, at 5:30 ET.

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Duke edges Butler, 61-59

It was a storybook finish for Brian Zoubek.

Something of a punch line for most of his four-year career at Duke, the light suddenly went on midway through his senior season. The game slowed down for the 7’1″ center and he quickly became a force defensively and on the glass.

And he needed every inch of that big frame tonight. With just seconds remaining and Duke nursing a one-point lead, Butler’s best player, Gordon Hayward, drove into the lane. Zoubek helped off his man and forced Hayward into a difficult fadeaway jumper along the baseline that was a few inches too long. Zoubek was in the right spot to collect the rebound, and after a quick Butler foul, he had to make the long walk to the other end of the court to shoot a pair of free throws.

Having shot just 55% on the season, Zoubek nailed his first attempt to give Duke a two-point lead. He was then told by his coach to intentionally miss the second* so that Butler would have to gather the rebound and drive the length of the floor to attempt a game-winning shot from half court. Hayward did just that, and once again missed by a few inches. The shot hit the backboard and clanged off the front of the rim.

Just like that, Brian Zoubek became a national champion.

Duke’s “Big Three” — Kyle Singler (19 points, 9 rebounds, 3 blocks), Jon Scheyer (15 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists) and Nolan Smith (13 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds) — certainly deserve much of the credit, but the Blue Devils would not have won the title tonight without the play of their big men, and Zoubek led the way. His eight points and 11 boards were huge; his play was especially noticeable in the second half when Duke only yielded two offensive rebounds. (Butler had 10 offensive rebounds in the first half.)

Butler’s man-to-man defense was outstanding. The Blue Devils committed 13 turnovers and shot just 29% from long range. But Duke’s defense was just as good, forcing the Bulldogs into 35% shooting.

It was a back-and-forth, white knuckle affair. Just when it looked like Duke might pull away, the Bulldogs would make a couple of plays to cut the lead back to one. It was just a great, great game.

* This is a decision that I don’t agree with when there is 3+ seconds remaining — I’d rather go up three and have the worst-case scenario be overtime.

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Tweeting Duke/Butler

Three out of five ESPN college basketball experts pick Butler to win…

…and the other two want the Bulldogs to win.

Who wins and why?

[Eamonn] Brennan: My burgeoning relationship (and by “burgeoning” I mean I saw a dog in the press room and thought he was a sweetheart, and definitely way cooler than Uga) with Blue II would say Butler. Ah, but the heart says one thing and the head says another. I think Duke wins, only because of its size. Matt Howard will get into foul trouble. It’s going to happen. Once it does, Duke should be able to control the glass easily, get buckets on the interior and do what it did to West Virginia on Saturday night even if the offense isn’t quite that crazily efficient. Butler is an incredible, legendary story, and you have to have a heart of stone to root against them. (Even if I was a Duke fan, I might be having a Rocky-Drago moment right now.) But I think Duke wins, anticlimactic though it may be.

[Pat] Forde: Butler wins 62-60 when Hayward pulls a Bobby Plump and hits the winning shot in the final seconds. Why? Because truth has been stranger than fiction this NCAA tournament.

[Andy] Katz: Duke wins because of the uncertainty of Howard, the ability to rebound better off the offensive glass and the likelihood that Duke can score more easily than Butler and in bunches, too. Duke has the tendency to go on runs that stretch the game more than Butler does. That’s what my mind says, but my heart wants to see an iconic story receive a winning conclusion of a Butler Bulldogs team that refused to lose in 2010.

[Dana] O’Neil: I think Butler pulls the single greatest stunner in NCAA tournament history. The Bulldogs’ quick hands will make it hard for Duke to set up in its half-court offense, and Butler’s savvy defense won’t allow the Blue Devils to get any easy shots. I know how well Duke shot the ball against West Virginia, but that’s more exception than rule. This isn’t ordinarily a great shooting team, and I suspect the Devils won’t be able to match that offensive firepower. Mix in the talent of Gordon Hayward, whom I suspect will be guarded by Kyle Singler, and I see Butler marching the five miles down the street with trophy in hand.

[Mark] Schlabach: I’m probably guessing more with my heart than my mind, but I think Butler finds a way to win a close game. The Blue Devils won’t shoot the ball as well as they did in their rout of West Virginia in the national semifinals. The Bulldogs won’t allow them to have as many open looks on the perimeter, and guards Ronald Nored and Willie Veasley will take away two-thirds of Duke’s three-headed monster. Gordon Hayward will hit big shots down the stretch, and Butler will march the trophy from Lucas Oil Stadium to its campus in north Indianapolis.

It seems like pundits can be broken up into two camps: 1) those that pick Duke to win, but are admittedly rooting for Butler, and 2) those that actually believe the Bulldogs are going to pull the upset.

This is going to be a strange segue, but I’ve been reading Dan Brown’s book, The Lost Symbol, and its all about Noetic theory, which (among other things) studies the effect that the human mind can have on the physical world. What am I getting at? Well, if virtually everyone that’s watching the game tonight wants Butler to win, will it influence the outcome? If it were ever to have an effect, it seems like tonight would be the night — has there ever been a single game where such a vast majority of the viewing public will be rooting for one side to win?

Did I just blow your mind?

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