Tar Heels run Coach K out of the NCAA

Tar Heels run Coach K out of the NCAA

Acki Kitay and Max Baum

Filled with upsets, rivalries, and heartbreak, the 2022 March Madness was one to remember.  With fans back in the stands for the first time in two years, the energy of the crowds was unmatched.  Between St. Peter’s historic Elite Eight run and Jay Wright’s sudden farewell, this tournament had an abundance of memorable moments, but none quite as spectacular as a certain Final Four matchup.

The Duke vs UNC rivalry is well documented as one of the most historic rivalries in all of sports.  Dating back to the 1960s, this college feud has enveloped the university cultures.  At Duke, students camp outside in tents for weeks leading up to the big game between the schools.  The rivalry is not just great because of its history, but also because of its competitiveness.  Compared to many lopsided rivalries in college basketball, these matchups always live up to the hype.  In fact, Coach K sat at a career record of 50-49 vs UNC prior to March Madness.  When Duke and UNC were set to face off in the final four, people across the country knew they were in for a good game.

In this game, the stakes were as high as they had ever been.  Not only was it the first time that Duke would play UNC in NCAA tournament history, but the winner would advance to the Championship game.  More importantly, Duke’s legendary coach, Mike Krzyzewski, announced that this season would be his last.  After splitting the regular season games (although UNC beat Duke more recently, and at Coach K’s last home game), this game was the culmination of over 4 decades of Coach K leading the Blue Devils. 

“It just had to be fate that Duke and UNC faced each other.  The circumstances were too perfect for it to be a random coincidence,” said junior Jack McNaughton.  

Some of Coach K’s records are unbelievable.  He has coached the most NCAA tournament games of all time, along with winning the most NCAA tournament games of all.  Unfortunately, his run would end at the heels of UNC. 

The game was back and forth and could not have been any more exciting.  Unfortunately for Coach K, the overwhelming pressure of the game seemed to disrupt the rhythm of the team.  It did not help the Blue Devils that junior center Armando Bacot dominated the paint while Caleb Love owned the perimeter.  UNC was able to squeak out a win in an intense victory, capped off with a dagger three that Caleb Love plunged into the hearts of Duke fans nationwide. 

“There were so many mixed emotions watching the final moments of the game.  UNC was a huge underdog, so they obviously deserve some love, but it was hard not to root for Coach K in his final moments as a coach,” said junior Alex Almahmoud.

While the Blue Devils suffered a heartbreaking loss, they gave it their all on the court. Most noticeably, future NBA top 3 pick Paolo Banchero looked unstoppable with 20 points and 10 rebounds.  The players from both Duke and UNC showed great respect for each other and even Coach K. 

The Championship game was set, as Kansas took on UNC in a blue blood school matchup.  UNC utterly dominated the first half, taking a commanding 40-25 lead.  Kansas looked absolutely lost, and many fans worried that the Championship game would be a complete blowout.  Nevertheless, Kansas never gave up.  They found new life as the second half began and were able to come all the way back to take the lead in the final minutes.  UNC’s Armando Bacot suffered a pretty serious injury in the previous game against the Blue Devils, yet he refused to let that stop him from playing in the championship.  He had dominated the game on both the glass and in the paint, as he had 15 points and 15 rebounds.  Unfortunately for Bacot, he suffered an injury in the final minute of the game, with the Kansas Jayhawks leading by  just one point. 

“It was heartbreaking seeing Bacot unable to return to the court.  Despite him putting everything he had out there, it clearly hurt him to have to watch the last minutes of the biggest game of his life from the bench,” said freshman Riley Funk.

Brady Manek of UNC was incredible throughout the tournament, but struggled down the stretch of the game when he needed to step up. Kansas led by three and they had the ball with the clock expiring.  It seemed like it was the end for UNC, but out of nowhere, Kansas turned the ball over and gave UNC another chance to send this game to overtime.  Caleb Love so far had one of the biggest tournament breakout performances.  He was instrumental in their path to the championship, hitting clutch shot after clutch shot.  Love got the shot he splashed all tournament long, but he missed it at the very end.  Kansas took the title and cut down the net.  

College basketball fans from all over the world learned once again that anything is possible in the month of March.