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Coach K's Sweet 16: Third national title in 2001

Led by Shane Battier, the Blue Devils captured Krzyzewski's third championship with a win against Arizona in the title game.
Led by Shane Battier, the Blue Devils captured Krzyzewski's third championship with a win against Arizona in the title game.

This article is the eighth of 16 in our "Coach K's Sweet 16" series, where we will walk back through the legendary head coach's career and recap his most iconic moments. For the full list, click here.

Most basketball fans have heard of Tracy McGrady’s 13 points in 33 seconds, or Reggie Miller’s 8 points in 9 seconds. 

But have you heard of Jay Williams’ eight points in 13 seconds? This stunning display birthed the “Miracle Minute”, a 10-point rally in less than 60 seconds that was one of the most incredible comebacks in college basketball history. 

Do you want another one? How about on the biggest stage, when it matters most? The greatest comeback in Final Four history was a rally from a 22-point deficit to win by 11. 

Now, what if I told you that both were accomplished by the same coach, with the same team, in the same year, against the same opponent? That was Duke in 2001, and that is how crazy head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s third national championship run was.

Going into the 2000-01 season, the Blue Devils were coming off four straight first-place finishes in the ACC and three straight No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament. The freshman trio of Jay Williams, Carlos Boozer and Mike Dunleavy took the league by storm alongside veteran Shane Battier in 1999-00. 

However, despite dominating the whole way through the regular season and ACC tournament, the Blue Devils fell prematurely in the Sweet 16 against Florida. It was a disappointing end to an otherwise impressive campaign.

Heading into 2000-01, the final season of his legendary Duke career, Battier had all the motivation in the world to finally get over the hump. All it required was the extremely talented young core behind him to buy into Krzyzewski’s culture, and buy into his culture they did.

Williams led the conference in scoring with 21.6 points per game, alongside the most efficient ACC scorer in Carlos Boozer and ACC Rookie of the Year Chris Duhon. Leading this remarkable young tandem were seniors Nate James, an All-ACC third teamer, and Battier, the ACC and National Player of the Year. Duke was loaded, cruising through the regular season with a 26-4 record while averaging an astounding 90.7 points per game.

However, a badly timed injury to Boozer in a loss against Maryland on Senior Night raised concerns. Nevertheless, Krzyzewski and his players would adjust.

Coach K transitioned to a small-ball lineup that saw Duhon enter as the starting point guard. This proved to be extremely effective, as the Blue Devils went undefeated in Boozer’s absence. This included an electrifying, final second win against none other than Maryland in the ACC tournament semifinal and an absolute rout of rival North Carolina in a 26-point victory in the final.

It was then time to win what mattered most. 

Boozer returned in time for the Sweet 16 and then, fully healthy, Duke never looked back. Boozer helped propel the Blue Devils to the Final Four where they faced, for the fourth time, archnemesis Maryland. 

It was there that one of the greatest single-season rivalries in college basketball history was capped off by the biggest comeback in Final Four history. Maryland had Krzyzewski’s Blue Devils on the ropes, up by as much as 22-points, and headed into halftime with an 11-point lead. Little did the Terrapins know, Krzyzewski and company were about to show just how great of a team they were. 

Duke pulled off the stunning comeback en route to an 11-point win, punching its ticket to the national championship game for the second time in three seasons. The result this time, though, was different than 1999’s heartbreaking loss against Connecticut. 

Despite facing a formidable Arizona team featuring future NBA stars Gilbert Arenas and Richard Jefferson, Duke took control of the game in the second half and maintained it all the way through to capture the program’s third national title. 

With three rings, Krzyzewski and Duke had solidified their connected legacies as a truly iconic coach and program. The Blue Devils’ 10-point victory in the title game made them the first team in NCAA history to win every tournament game by double-digits. 

The season also served as the peak of the greatest stretch of ACC dominance in the conference’s history, as Krzyzewski and his Blue Devils won six regular season and five ACC tournament titles in eight seasons, including five consecutive regular season crowns.

The 2001 title made Coach K’s legacy undeniable, but it was truly a preview of what was to come over the next two decades. It was the mark of a new dynasty, led by one of the greatest coaches the game has ever seen.


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