Is it the score: 61-59?
Is it who wins: Duke?
Is it shooting percentage: combined 43-106 (40.6%)?
Is it 3-point FG shooting: combined 11-35 (31.4%)?
Is it free throw shooting: combined 23-34 (67.6%)?
Is it a breakdown of all the stats?
Is it the slim lead margins by either team?
Is it the number of lead changes?
Is it the ebb and flow?
Is it the closeness of a supposedly David vs. Goliath?
At least in the hierarchy known as College Basketball?
Is it David missing a good attempt late in the game?
That would give David a 1-point lead with seconds remaining?
Is it a thrilling attempt by David at the buzzer that nearly went in?
From near mid-court, banking off the backboard, then the rim?
Is it the words from the television commentators?
Both wanting a win by Butler but both wanting Duke to win?
So, what makes a college basketball game great?
Maybe all of the above, but I think more. Last night’s NCAA Championship game, resulting in a 4th national title for Duke, was a good basketball game for the viewers, those without a full stake in it. Because it was very close. No team lead by more than six points. But as far as shooting stats are concerned, it wasn’t all that good.
Maybe it’s defense that makes a college basketball game great. Maybe it’s the officials “letting them play” and the players and coaches eventually realizing it, causing the players to play harder and not really worry about fouls and turnovers, a relatively low number at 20. And the coaches to coach harder and smarter.
Maybe it’s the fiery coaching style of one coach and the calming, congratulatory, encouraging demeanor of the other. You guess, but from my strategic seat, the one on the left was the fiery one.
Maybe it’s the quotes after the game:
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski: "It will become an historic game, a benchmark game. Not just the way it was played, but who played in it and what comes about." (What?)
Duke’s Kyle Singler, the Final Four MVP: "I can't really put it into words because the last couple of plays were just not normal.” (Huh?)
Butler’s Gordon Hayward, who attempted both of Butler's last two shots. "The first shot, caught it, tried to go left, went back right. Thought it was a good shot and missed it. The last shot, it was just a last-second shot. I don't know. It missed." (Heartbreak, twice in just a few seconds.)
Coach K, after his 8th title game: "It's the best one I've been involved in of the eight.” (Also the latest and right after North Carolina’s latest.)
Butler’s 33-year old coach, Brad Stevens: "We came up one possession short in a game with about 145 possessions. It's hard to stomach when you're on the wrong end of that." (Really.)
Again, Coach K: "My congratulations and empathy are with the Butler team, who played winning basketball. And, yeah, to me, it was a game that we won, but they didn't lose." (So you can have it both ways.)
Butler’s Hayward, again: "Hate losing. It's one of the worst feelings personally that I have, is losing. So it's great for us to be here, but that's not what we wanted to do. We wanted to win." (Good approach.)
Butler coach Stevens, who will now be the target of many colleges to change coaching venues: "They gave it everything they have. We just came up a bit short. I told them that what they've done together will last a lot longer than one night, regardless of the outcome." (For them more than for others.)
Duke’s Krzyzewski: "And it's hard for me to believe that we're the national champions. We played a great game; they played a great game."
So, maybe it was a great basketball game.