Duke and North Carolina played an instant classic last night in the Final Four, but some of the players’ actions after the buzzer have fans buzzing on social media. With the game ending and a handshake line forming, many of the Duke players walked back to the locker room without offering the gesture of sportsmanship. Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski, who saw his career come to an end with the loss to his bitter rival, went through the line; but many of the players instead went straight back to the locker room, On3 reports.
With the win, the North Carolina Tar Heels punched a ticket to the championship game on Monday night against a stout Kansas Jayhawks team. The final game — a true battle of the ‘bluest’ blue bloods in the sport — will be UNC’s first championship appearance since winning it all in 2017. Kansas last won the big one in 2008, but made Final Four appearances in both 2012 and 2018.
The storylines from last night’s Tobacco Road matchup (named for the scant 11 miles between the Duke and UNC campuses) came as fast and furious as the high-scoring game itself. Most importantly, Krzyzewski’s remarkable career came to a gut-wrenching close after Caleb Love made a key 3-pointer and three late free throws. After 47 years on the sideline, and over 1200 wins to his name, Krzyzewski walked off the court with his wife feeling the sting of magnified defeat.
Krzyzewski said he had a locker room full of crying Duke players in his Final Four post-game interview
“It’s not about me,” he insisted. “Especially right now. I’ve said my entire career that I wanted my seasons to end where my team was either crying tears of joy or tears of sorrow. Because then you knew that they gave everything.”
Other than a postgame handshake, the Duke players certainly gave everything they had throughout the epic Final Four showdown. Neither team ever led or trailed by more than seven points; and when the dust settled, the eighth-seed UNC pulled off the “upset” over the No. 2 seed Blue Devils; though a game of that caliber likely transcended favorites and underdogs.
North Carolina coach Hubert Davis said he doesn’t want to dwell on this win too long, which makes sense. But my oh my, what a game; it was as good as any these two teams have played in an ancient, sacred rivalry that often determined ACC conference winners, NCAA national champions, or just annual bragging rights in a state where college hoops are king.
“When you’re in the arena, either you’re going to come out feeling great or feel agony; but you always will feel great about being in the arena,” Krzyzewski said. “I was in the arena for a long time, and these kids made my last time in the arena an amazing one.”