A day later, Duke relishes No. 4

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and the Blue Devils stand before a cheering crowd at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, N.C.

Associated Press

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and the Blue Devils stand before a cheering crowd at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, N.C.

DURHAM, N.C. — The scene was almost perfect.

The national championship trophy was back. Fans had nearly packed Cameron Indoor Stadium to welcome the Blue Devils home after another title run. The arena's scoreboards displayed Monday night's final score.

Only one thing was missing for Mike Krzyzewski.

"It's good to be home, it's good to be in Cameron, and it's good to see that score," the Hall of Fame coach said. "It'll be even better to see a fourth banner up there."

About 9,000 fans greeted the team when it returned to campus Tuesday, less than 24 hours after Duke held off Butler 61-59 in Indianapolis to win a fourth national title.

The party, which began early Tuesday, was still going as the team climbed onto a stage in front of a banner reading "Welcome Home NCAA Champs!!!"

The Blue Devils had waited nine years for this title and hadn't been to the Final Four since 2004.

"I've been doing this here at Duke for 30 years," Krzyzewski said. "This is as good of a group of guys as I've coached here in 30 years."

Freshman Andre Dawkins held the championship trophy, and players stood behind Krzyzewski as he addressed the adoring crowd.

"I'm so speechless right now," said junior Nolan Smith, who teamed with fellow junior Kyle Singler and senior Jon Scheyer to form the high-scoring "Big Three" that led Duke's offense. "It meant so much to me and my family to be a part of something special. Now we're going to hang another banner in Cameron. That's what I came to Duke to do."

Loss doesn't deter Butler celebration

INDIANAPOLIS — Less than 24 hours after Gordon Hayward's buzzer-beating shot bounced off the rim, Butler and its fans partied inside Hinkle Fieldhouse as if the Bulldogs had won the national title.

They didn't win the final against Duke, but the Bulldogs won the hearts of this basketball-crazy state and captured the imagination of a nation that won't soon forget their journey.

About 4,000 fans came to Hinkle and provided an atmosphere as festive as it was when the Bulldogs were celebrating their first Final Four appearance.

The rally began with a standing ovation, which continued until guards Ronald Nored and Shawn Vanzant, a former Wharton High standout, did cartwheels.

Meanwhile, coach Brad Stevens taped an appearance for the Late Show with David Letterman from the free-throw line, and the Bulldogs even got a phone call from President Barack Obama.

"I think his message was that he wasn't just going to call the team that won today because of the way both teams played," Stevens said.

Players and coaches embraced the biggest stage in college basketball. The only thing preventing a perfect ending was the bounce on Hayward's final shot.

"It's really hard because there's nothing anyone can say or do to make us feel better," Hayward said. "Only time can do that."

TV ratings: According to the Nielsen ratings, 48.1 million viewers tuned in during Monday's game, making it the most-watched championship game since 50 million saw the 1997 meeting between Arizona and Kentucky. The game had a rating of 14.2 with a 23 share, meaning 14.2 percent of households with televisions and 23 percent of televisions on at the time were tuned into the game. That's the highest rating/share since the 2005 North Carolina-Illinois final drew 15/23.

Tom Jones, Times staff writer

Around the nation

Award: Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim was named Naismith coach of the year after leading the Orange to a 30-5 record and a Sweet 16 berth.

Boston College: Steve Donahue, who led Cornell to a 29-5 record and the Sweet 16, was hired as coach to replace fired Al Skinner.

DePaul: Oliver Purnell left Clemson to take over as coach of the Blue Demons, who have one regular-season Big East win in the past two years. He replaces interim coach Tracy Webster.

South Carolina: Forward Dominique Archie will not get a sixth year of eligibility after a knee injury ended his season.

Tulane: Citadel coach Ed Conroy agreed to replace Dave Dickerson, who resigned last week.

A day later, Duke relishes No. 4 04/06/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 7, 2010 12:35am]

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