North Carolina head coach Hubert Davis has gone head-to-head with Duke’s legendary basketball coach, Mike Krzyzewski, three times this season. He’s 2-1 against Krzyzewski, and those two wins will go down in history.
Davis’ Tar Heels are fresh off a Final Four victory over their arch-rivals, and it was undoubtedly the biggest game of the bunch. Davis still has one more game to win, but after the nailbiter against the Blue Devils, he received a sign of respect from the legendary coach on his way out.
It was an utterance that perfectly described the magic of March Madness.
Mike Krzyzewski shared a nice moment with Hubert Davis after the Final Four
On the other end of the floor, across from Davis, was a legend experiencing his final moments as head coach of Duke. His team had just played a hard-fought game but ultimatly fell short, losing to UNC, 81-77.
As North Carolina rightfully celebrated the biggest win of its season to date, the camera stayed steady on a stoic Krzyzewski taking in the last handshake line he’ll be a part of as a Blue Devil.
Much of his team had already walked off the court, which is likely not how he would have wanted it to play out, but they’re kids suffering the ultimate disappointment. Let’s cut them some slack.
Krzyzewski, wrapping up his 42nd and final season at Duke and 47th season overall as a college basketball coach (he coached five seasons at Army), has been around long enough to know that the head coach has to go down with the ship. He solemnly walked toward Davis, the victor, and shook his hand while giving him a few words.
What the two coaches told each other will remain private, though millions viewed it on television. One interpretation was that Krzyzewski told Davis to “win it all”, which wouldn’t be all that uncommon. If your team can’t hoist the trophy, at least the team that beat you can. That’s sports logic for you. It somehow makes the sting of the loss seem more bearable.
Upon further review of the handshake line, though, it would seem as if Krzyzewski was uttering a phrase he used later in a press conference.
“What a game. What a game,” the legendary coach appeared to tell Davis.
Krzyzewski is right. It was an incredible March Madness game
If that’s what Krzyzewski really told Davis, he was 100% correct in his assessment of the Final Four matchup.
It was already going to be a historic matchup because of the backdrop. Duke and North Carolina are bitter rivals who have met countless times throughout the years in a rivalry that’s over 100 years old. The two programs have never met in March Madness, though.
For UNC and Duke to meet in the Final Four with so much on the line? That’s legendary.
The beautiful thing about it was that the game lived up to the hype as well. The Tar Heels and Blue Devils fought wire-to-wire. Big play was answered by an even bigger play.
Both Krzyzewski and Davis played a chess game as multiple players dealt with foul trouble. Krzyzewski leaned on his bench and got great performances from Trevor Keels (19 points in 29 minutes) and “energizer bunny” Theo John.
Freshman Paolo Banchero, the potential No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming 2022 NBA Draft, put up 20 points and 10 rebounds, and Wendell Moore Jr. had an all-around game with 10 points, eight rebounds, three assists, and two steals.
Duke and Krzyzewski were good. Davis’ Tar Heels were even better though, and they met Duke’s star power with a total team effort.
Four of five starters scored double digits for UNC, led by Caleb Love’s 28 points. All but six of Love’s points came in the second half, with the biggest being the rainbow three he hit with 26.4 seconds left to give the Tar Heels a four-point lead and essentially win the game.
That was the highlight moment that will be played for the rest of college basketball history, but lost in that will be the 11 points and 21 rebounds Armando Bacot pulled down, securing his fifth-straight double-double of the tournament. He left the game late with an ankle injury but showed incredible grit and passion checking in just a few minutes later to close it out. Brady Manek also came up huge for the Tar Heels, going three-of-four from downtown in the second half.
In all it was a legendary game. It was a game that was hyped up beyond belief, yet it somehow lived up to all of the expectations.
It was the essence and magic of March Madness boiled down into 40 minutes of basketball between the two biggest bluebloods in the sport.
For Duke, it was an end of an era that brought the Blue Devils five national titles. For North Carolina and Davis, it could be the moment that marks the start of something special. The start of yet another era of college basketball greatness.
Either way, it will always be looked back on as one of the best March Madness games in history.
“They played an outstanding game. I thought both teams played their hearts out,” Krzyzewski told Tracy Wolfson. “It’s an emotional win, and it’s an emotional loss. And that’s the way a game like this should be.”
Stats courtesy of ESPN.