Underdog Butler Bulldogs Fall To Duke Blue Devils

The Blue Devils are the NCAA basketball champions. They held on to beat Butler 61-59 Monday night for their first national title since 2001. The Bulldogs had a chance to win, but Gordon Hayward's final-second half-court shot hit the front of the rim and failed to fall in.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning, Im Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And Im Renee Montagne.

Tiger Woods is preparing for his return to the Masters. It's his first major tournament since he was engulfed in revelations about his personal life. He told reporters his goal is the same as always.

Mr. TIGER WOODS (Professional Golfer): Nothing has changed, Salty. I'm trying to go out there and win this thing.

MONTAGNE: And we'll hear more from Woods in a moment. First, we'll report on two basketball teams that tried to go out there and win.

INSKEEP: Last night's NCAA championship game cries out for one more reference to the movie "Hoosiers." It's not the scene with the dramatic, last-second victory, which was shot in a gymnasium at Butler University. It's the scene where Dennis Hopper, playing a former basketball player, remembers his last-second shot that got away.

(Soundbite of film, "Hoosiers")

Mr. Dennis hopper (Actor): (As Wilbur Shooter Flatch) Sectionals of '33, one point down. Five, four, three, two, one, let her fly. In and out. Yeah, well, I was fouled.

INSKEEP: In and out. Last night, Butler University, the real-life underdogs, just missed a couple of last-second shots. So it's a moment of triumph for Duke University, which captured the title 61 to 59.

NPR's Mike Pesca is here to talk about the game.

And Mike, you told us yesterday Butler was going to try to slow down the game. That final score would suggest they did.

MIKE PESCA: They did. Two points. It was the first time a Butler opponent scored over 60 - just barely over 60, but thats what it took to win. This was a close game the whole way. No team led by more than six points throughout the entire game. And in the last 13 seconds, Butler was inbounding the ball under their own basket, down by two.

Their best player, Gordon Hayward, he got a pretty good shot at the basket - it didnt go in. Foul, couple of foul shots later, and then on the very last play, Hayward, with less than four seconds left, took a couple of big dribbles, threw the ball up on what looked a prayer. But you could tell that it's the kind of shot that he's practiced many times - and it just missed by inches.

And so that may be why we'll come to think of Gordon Hayward and compare him to the lovable town drunk in need of redemption, as in "Hoosiers," as opposed to the guy who actually won the national championship.

INSKEEP: He'll still go on to a great basketball career, people think. But Duke, of course, is still in the midst of a great run with yet another championship.

PESCA: This was not one of the great Duke teams. This was their fourth national championship. In terms of the talent on the team, you're not going to get a lot of guys who will be playing a lot of years in the NBA. What this was, was a very well-coached Duke team.

All through the year, Duke's three main scorers were just that - the Kyle Singler and John Scheyer, Nolan Smith - they had all had good shooting games. The extra factor was Brian Zoubek, the 7-foot-1 center who came into Duke as a highly regarded player, but then he broke a foot. And then he broke a foot again. And he went from being a highly regarded high school player to being the guy who you say about him, oh, he had injuries - he never really reached his potential.

Except halfway through the season, he started to get a little healthier and Coach Mike Krzyzewski said to him, you're going to be our starting player now. Everyone who knows basketball said without him, Duke couldnt have done it. And he was a key factor in his team winning a championship.

INSKEEP: So Mike Krzyzewski was the coach who brought his team to victory. What about Brad Stevens of Butler - can he keep his team near the top of the NCAA?

PESCA: Right now, Butler could go in two directions. So if the question is, wow, Butler came so close. Does this mean that this was the one shot and in 20 years, you know, we'll have a reunion and maybe the one or two guys who played in the NBA will say, yeah, I remember our college days. And everyone else will, you know, have gone on to - their lives.

Or will Butler become a little powerhouse? And what it comes down to is, is Brad Stevens going to use this Butler job as a launching pad? He's a young guy, so is he going to want to go to a Big 10 school? Or is he going to say, we're going to create something right here in Indianapolis, and people will come to fear us.

The other thing it could do - even if Butler itself doesnt become the school that keeps going back to the tournament again and again, it's a mark in the ground that this can be done. So they might not have shocked the world, but I think they shocked the system of college basketball a little bit. And we're going to see more schools that are obscure and small and dont get the great high school recruits, making a big run in the tournament.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Mike Pesca, talking about the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship, won last night by Duke 61-59.

Mike, thanks very much.

PESCA: You're welcome.

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