That Was For America

Know I’m a little late on this, but just wanted to comment on the final 3.6 seconds of the NCAA Championship.  Full disclosure:  I’m a UVA alum so I in no way wanted Duke to win this game.  This was a very well played game and Duke deserved to win.  So here’s the video:

First, from a strategy perspective, at the time, I thought Duke did the right thing by missing the second FT intentionally.  However, on further review, it’s a peculiar decision.  Even without a TO, 3.6 seconds is a lot of time to push the ball to at least half court.  Butler was probably going to be attempting a 3, so would you rather try to be up 3 or 2?  Also, if you make it, you can try to at least pressure the inbound whereas a miss means they are more than likely already a third of the way to midcourt when the clock starts (and Duke only had 1 guy in to rebound on the second attempt).

Second, Zoubek almost made one of the biggest blunders in NCAA tourney history.   Instead of immediately retreating after the shot to get into defensive position, he decided to go into the middle of the lane after the ball.  I think instinct just took over.  He definitely makes contact with Hayward and it would’ve been a tough call, but if a foul had been called, this would have been up there with Chris Webber’s TO in terms of boneheaded plays.

Third, if Hayward made that shot it would have instantly become the most famous shot in NCAA tournament history and replaced the Laettner turnaround against Kentucky as the signature shot of the NCAA tourney.  The value of this to non-Duke fans cannot be overstated.  The degree of difficulty on the shot was extreme.  Hayward was going full speed, so he has to take into account his momentum as he shot it, plus he was going straight up the sideline, which required him to turn his upper body in midair.  That he came so close to making it is amazing in itself.

Lastly, after the shot missed, the only solace for me was seeing the replays of Kyle Singler getting absolutely demolished near midcourt by a Howard screen.  Singler was not hurt, so I don’t feel bad reveling in it.  He ends up splayed on the ground, but at least in Singler’s defense this was not a case of this (the worst flop ever, and that’s saying a lot in a world where Vlade Divac exists).  A fitting end to a tourney by Singler, who proved against Baylor he’s going to have trouble with the athletic ability of players at the next level, and a subpar Finals game.  As I remarked afterwards, that screen was for every non-Duke fan, that was for America.

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