Zoubek was more crucial to Duke’s ’10 title than I ever knew

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Finally cracked the latest Sports Illustrated yesterday – something was occupying my time – and was delighted to find two things: a bracket that had the same issues as mind and a fantastic feature on the final moments of Duke’s win over Butler in last year’s NCAA tournament title game.

Tim Layden’s article is more than a straight recap, though. Much like Josh Levin’s story recounting the final seconds of Butler’s win vs. Pitt on Saturday, it goes through the moments, detail by detail. All the pertinent people get their say and some – notably Duke’s Brian Zoubek – emerges as an even more crucial aspect to the Devils’ title.

He’s also a good quote.

Click this link and spend 10 minutes re-watching the final moments of Duke’s 61-59 win.Then you’ll have a better appreciation for the little details in Layden’s story, such as when Zoubek, the 7-foot center who was a 55 percent free-throw shooter, strode to the line with 3.6 seconds remaining and Duke leading 60-59.

What’s he thinking?

“Fifty percent [of me is] thinking, This is what I’ve been dreaming of doing my entire life,” he told Layden. “Fifty percent I’m crapping my pants. And I could feel that internal battle immediately after I got fouled. There was a time when I would have panicked and completely messed it up.”

But he didn’t. He made the first, missed the second on purpose and helped delay Gordon Hayward from getting a running start on his half-court shot that missed by inches. (It’s a nice detail for Zoubek, who simply got in Hayward’s way. But watch the video. Zoubek’s also the Duke guy hustling down the court. Good work, big fella.)

Also of note was the killer block Matt Howard laid on Duke’s Kyle Singler so Hayward would have an open shot at the basket. He missed and probably saved us a summer of heated arguments about Howard’s pick.

Howard’s pick is another matter. “That’s the one that would have kept me up at night,” John Adams, the NCAA officials supervisor, told Layden. “All night, those three officials created an environment where the team that played best could win. But in a vacuum, that’s probably an illegal screen. If Hayward had made the shot, we’d probably be talking a lot more about that screen.”

Anyway, it’s a fantastic story, which is only fitting. It was a fantastic game.

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