Just like the ‘One Shining Moment’ montage, the conclusion of the NCAA Tournament is always bittersweet and full of tears (or maybe that’s just me).
The 2015 NCAA Tournament was as good as any in recent memory, with a few big upsets on opening weekend and a Final Four full of future NBA names and Hall of Fame coaches.
Now that Duke has been named national champs, here’s what we’re taking away from this season’s Big Dance.
Kentucky can blame their SEC foes for losing.
Was Kentucky overrated? That depends.
In the sense that some thought they could beat an NBA team – yes, they were vastly overrated.
There’s no chance they were that good. But in the context of this season in college basketball, were they not as good as we all thought?
You’d be doing a massive disservice to Wisconsin by saying yes. But at the same time, I think it’s obvious that Kentucky’s conference schedule didn’t prepare them for the tournament as well as other teams.
By escaping games against Texas A&M, Ole Miss and LSU – the Wildcats were never forced to improve on their weaknesses. So after a battle-tested Notre Dame pushed them to the brink, Wisconsin was able to slay the undefeated giant. Without question, those were the two best teams Kentucky had played all season.
This is cliche, but Kentucky going 38-1 shows again how hard it is to go undefeated for an entire season. Pressure to achieve it or not, the motivation to not feel the pain of a loss again will always trump the motivation to not taste your first one.
And it’s not Kentucky’s fault for winning every game they played, it’s just unfortunate for them that the SEC had such a down year.
Mike Krzyzewski is at worst tied with John Wooden as the greatest college basketball coach ever.
Jay Bilas was spot on in saying that it wouldn’t be productive to try and rank one of these two legends ahead of the other.
Wooden’s ten titles will probably never be matched, but Krzyzewski has won five in a much more competitive era. Not to mention, he won them in the era of a 64-team tournament. It’s difficult to compare the two, so it’s much easier to put them on the same, legendary level.
With that being said, Coach K is the greatest coach of my lifetime. While Bo Ryan is a fantastic coach, Krzyzewski has been doing it for 35 years.
It’s impossible to match the kind of wisdom and experience he has accrued, especially when you toss in his work for Team USA (two gold medals).
Krzyzewski’s fifth title is special because he did it with a team that revolved around freshmen – a far cry from any of his previous championships.
After the Kyrie Irving, Austin Rivers and Jabari Parker-led teams all failed – Coach K mixed four outstanding freshmen with incumbent veterans and produced maybe his greatest team yet. When you consider his compelling demeanor and never-ending fire to the best, it’s no surprise that he did.
College or pro, it’d be hard to argue there’s a better basketball coach on the planet than Mike Krzyzewski.
The ACC is still home to the nation’s best basketball.
Even before Duke took home the title, you would have to say the tournament proved the ACC is the country’s best basketball conference right now.
Five teams in the Sweet 16, three in the Elite Eight, and not a single team who lost in the first round. If Virginia hadn’t drawn Michigan State, all six ACC teams would have made it to the tournament’s second weekend.
Conference realignment treated the ACC well, with elite programs like Notre Dame and Louisville immediately paying dividends in their new conference. Assuming Syracuse gets back on track, that will only be more true. Virginia isn’t going anywhere soon, and you could probably say the same about NC State.
Duke and UNC are still the conference’s royalty, but they’ve got plenty of quality backups.
Stories are nice, but they don’t beat talent.
Wisconsin’s narrative heading into the national championship was pretty compelling. They had four seniors, three starters representing their home state, and a coach looking to add a national title to the four he won in Division III.
They took down an undefeated Kentucky team one year after losing to them by a point in the same game. They had a blast all tournament long, whether it was messing with stenographers, hanging out with the Entourage crew or accidentally professing their love to attractive reporters.
Still, narratives rarely beat talent.
Yes, Wisconsin beat ultra-talented Kentucky – but that was an ideal matchup for Bo Ryan’s team.
Against Duke, there were way more possessions dictated by player vs. player, and the Blue Devils will win that every time.
Case in point: Bronson Koenig is a great point guard, but Tyus Jones was able to score whenever he wanted on him in the second half. As a team, Wisconsin can beat anyone – but credit Krzyzewski and Duke for exploiting their individual talent advantage.
Since 1978, there have only been two teams to win a national title without a McDonald’s All-American on their roster: 2002 Maryland and last season’s UConn team.
Come on man, it wasn’t going to happen two years in a row.
At the very least, Wisconsin can take solace that they’ll be remembered for a long time after knocking off Kentucky.
I’m going to miss watching Frank Kaminsky.
Thinking about Frank Kaminsky having to take off his Wisconsin uniform for the last time is utterly sad. He absolutely loved playing college basketball, and he loved doing it at Wisconsin.
Over the years, we’ve seen plenty of versatile, white forwards thrive under Bo Ryan – but nobody like Kaminsky. As a freshman, he averaged just 1.8 points per game, and by the time he was a senior he became the best player in college basketball.
Most (including myself) think Kaminsky will do well in the NBA, but he’s a player that was made to play college basketball. From his vintage drop-step move to making threes with regularity and driving the ball at 6’11 – he was as fun a college player to watch that I can remember.
ICYMI, check out our interview with Frank.
Matchups are more important than seeding.
So often we hear teams or fans complain about seeding, but the number next to your name pales in comparison to who you’re actually playing.
For example, the East was wide open this year. Who better than Tom Izzo and Michigan State to take advantage?
Notre Dame, who played Kentucky as well as anyone not named Wisconsin, might not have had their shot to do so if the 2-seed in the Midwest wasn’t an overrated, beat up, Cliff Alexander-less Kansas team.
Duke deserves every ounce of credit for winning this tournament, but they were really only tested by Gonzaga. Wisconsin had to beat North Carolina, Arizona and Kentucky before facing the Blue Devils. Yikes.
Not to discredit the National Champions, but after coasting against Michigan State, Duke had way more left in the tank than Wisconsin did.
It’s not easy to pick the Final Four.
Unless you copied me, as I told you to.
(Feature photo courtesy of Roberts0524)