- 1 Duke (2001) vs. 1 Kentucky (1996)
Analysis: What an oddity! Just when Kentucky thought it had emptied the closets of its ’92 Duke skeletons, they have to do it all over again. Having dispatched of the ’91 Duke squad in the Elite Eight, the Wildcats now face the ’01 Dukies in the Final Four. Back-to-back games against Coach K? A tall order. Back-to-back wins against the Crazies? It ain’t gonna happen. While the game itself piles an NBA roster’s worth of talent on the floor, it is Duke who carries the day.
Result: Duke 84, Kentucky 82
1 North Carolina (2009) vs. 2 Arizona (2001)
Analysis: As my friends and family know all too well, this game would pain me to no end to have to watch. It has nothing to do with the quality of the teams, or the competitiveness that the game would surely be. It has to do with the names on the front of the jerseys. In ’09, the Tarheels margin of victory was just over 20 ppg. They won the championship by seventeen. ’01 Arizona was impressive. But they weren’t that impressive. The Tarheels have too much talent and too much depth, and turn a close game into a second-half win.
Result: North Carolina 88, Arizona 74
1 Duke (2001) vs. 1 North Carolina (2009)
Analysis: It seems only fitting that the championship game of the greatest NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament ever would involve Duke and North Carolina (my immediate apologies to Kansas and Kentucky fans…I know you’re steaming right now). Funny that it’s debatable whether these two teams are even the best that their respective schools have to offer over the course of their illustrious histories. Do you think the ’92 Devils might want a chance to play the ’01 squad? Kind of a no-brainer. What about the ’82 or ’93 Tarheels (note that I didn’t even mention the ’05 squad)? You can see how quickly this argument gets pretty heated. Still, I think it’s tough to argue with the teams that are here. The ’01 Blue Devils won their games by an average of 16 points (includi
ng a semifinal win over Maryland where they trailed by twenty in the first half, but still won by eleven). The ’09 Tarheels (as mentioned above) won by an average of 20 points. Neither team had a tournament game that was closer than ten
points. Pretty astounding results in this day and age. Assuming I’ve convinced you as to who should be in the championship game (which I know I didn’t), who wins it? Well, it goes down as the single greatest tournament game in history. North Carolina wins it on a 27-footer at the buzzer…in triple overtime.
Result: North Carolina 85, Duke 84 3OT
THE GREATEST NCAA DIVISION I MEN’S BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT CHAMPION:
THE 2009 NORTH CAROLINA TARHEELS
Results: Beat East Tennessee State (1989) 98-57, beat 8 Wisconsin (2000) 72-58, beat 5 Michigan State (2005) 77-71, beat 2 Louisville (1986) 76-74, beat 2 Arizona (2001) 88-74, beat 1 Duke 85-84 3OT
PDF version of the bracket here: NCAA Greatest Tournament Teams Bracket
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