Until Sunday night, UCF was just a three-initial No. nine seed within the NCAA tournament — simply another face on the floor to a lot of the public, and an easy second-round victim to scratch off in their brackets.
Until Sunday night, the Knights had a 24-8 record that urged very little magic, however did embrace a loss to Florida Atlantic and two 20-point thrashings by Memphis.
Until Sunday night, Aubrey Dawkins to a national audience was . . . well, just who was Aubrey Dawkins? Ohio yeah, the coach’s son. should be pretty good, with a 15-point average.
Until Sunday night, the UCF Knights had no specific reason to be enclosed in any NCAA tournament memory banks. They’d won one game in their entire history — which was Friday.
They have a reason now.
There will be sixty seven foiled losers during this NCAA Tournament, and there are thousands since it all began back in 1939. All endure sad, sometimes agonizing ends. however only a few extremely endure the wall of the What-Might-Have-Been Hall of Fame, and that we simply got a replacement candidate.
“Magnificent,” Mike Krzyzewski said once it had been over and Duke had somehow gotten by 77-76. however he didn’t mean his locker room filled with future NBA draft picks. He meant the opposite player, and also the alternative coach, and also the alternative team.
“It’s a tough moment, and it will take me a little while to get through it, to be quite frank with you,” Krzyzewski went on. And he won.
Consider the factors at work in this epic.
Duke, with a lineup of McDonald’s All-Americans, led by the foremost ballyhooed college basketball player on the planet.
UCF, and if Tacko Fall wasn’t 7-6, much of the nation couldn’t have told you one single, solitary issue concerning the Knights before Sunday.
Duke, with Krzyzewski chasing his thirteenth Final Four.
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UCF, coached by the man who carried Krzyzewski to his 1st one. Johnny Dawkins. And son Aubrey, who as a little boy — along with his father then a Duke assistant — hung around Cameron Indoor sports stadium, shooting baskets.
Duke — No. one within the rankings and within the bracket and in typical knowledge as being too mighty for even the large guys out there to prevent — needing the Knights to botch an open lob-and-dunk and not block out on a missed free within the final 2 minutes to survive, let alone advance.
UCF, who might have won anyway had a shot by BJ Taylor not barely rolled off, and then had a last-second tip by Dawkins — he seemed to fly in from the upper deck — not rolled around every side of the rim before spinning out.
“It kills me, it didn’t fall,” Taylor said of his shot.
“It was up there forever. I felt like, in slow motion. Once I saw it go past the midpoint and roll out, it was, at that point, nothing left to do,” Dawkins said of his tip.
So much to imagine.
Imagine Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett and every one the other scintillant names from Duke not even going to the second week. Sunday was Krzyzewski’s 1474th game as a coach, and none of the other 1,473 would have been more stunning.
Imagine Johnny Dawkins gets the largest win of his life — against his mentor.
Imagine the Aubrey Dawkins tap goes in — as physics and geometry and Newton would swear it ought to have. You’re talking regarding something on the list of most dramatic game-winning baskets within the history of the tournament.
The long post-game embrace between Krzyzewski and Dawkins would little doubt still have happened, simply that the sentiments would are reversed. “That man, while not him, I wouldn’t be where i am today,” Dawkins said. “So he has meant a lot to me throughout my life.”
So many rich stories that could have been. That’s why theunderdog who helped create the moment will linger. UCF is more nationally known in defeat than it ever was in victory.
Duke goes to Washington, D.C., now, for the East Regional. The Knights go home to Florida, but they just became one of the teams who frames the final narrative of the 2019 tournament, no matter who wins it.
“Coach K talks a lot about the basketball gods,” Williamson said. “They had our back tonight.”
Stand tall, UCF Knights. You know you’ve done something special, when it takes the gods to beat you.