In this week’s Throwback Thursday, I talk with Suns center Miles Plumlee about playing and winning a national championship in 2010 against Butler.
“To win a title under Coach K is something I will cherish for the rest of my life.” — Miles Plumlee
Date: April 5, 2010
Place: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Indiana
Plumlee’s season: Plumlee came off the bench during the Duke Blue Devils’ run to the title during the 2009-10 season. The center played in all 40 games, averaging 16.4 minutes and around five points and five rebounds per game. Duke went into the tournament with a No. 1 seed and cruised its way to the championship game, winning all of its games by seven points or more. Even though Plumlee never scored more than six points in any of the tournament games, he was still their leading contributor off the bench.
Duke vs. Butler: The Butler Bulldogs were everyone’s darlings heading into the championship game against the No. 1 seeded Blue Devils. Most expected Duke to run away from Butler in that game, but to the surprise of many, Butler hung around and almost pulled off they greatest championship run in the tournaments history. Both teams played a closely contested game with neither team pulling ahead by more than six points. Duke held a two point lead when Brian Zoubek purposely missed the second free throw attempt with three seconds remaining. Butler forward and current Utah Jazz Gordon Hayward grabbed the rebound and put up a half court shot that hit the backboard, rim, and bounced to the ground, just missing what could have been the most famous shot in college basketball history.
Aftermath: Plumlee went on to play two more years at Duke, but never got to experience another Final Four. The following year the Blue Devils lost to Arizona in the Sweet 16 before being upset by Lehigh during Plumlee’s senior season.
A Q&A with Miles Plumlee about winning a championship at Duke.
Jeff Sanders: What do you remember most about the National Championship game?
Miles Plumlee: We worked really hard to get there and the whole team was unbelievably excited. Every game is hard fought to get to that point and once you’re there, it’s hard to even take it all in like you know this is the national championship game. We came out and played hard and Butler was the toughest game we played all year. It came down to the last shot and I think everyone’s heart stopped, it looked good from my end, so I was really nervous and I almost passed out after running around.
Is there a moment in that game that stands out to you as being the moment that propelled Duke to victory?
The game was so neck-and-neck the whole time, both teams we were playing so hard. The moment we made a play, they made a play and when we made a stop, they made a stop. We were biting our nails until that last shot.
Obviously, Butler was a very good team. With that said, was there any overconfidence factor before the game with you being Duke and them being Butler?
No, and that is why we made it that far in the first place, because if you have that with any of those teams you are going to lose. They made it there for a reason and are playing their best basketball of the year at that point. Obviously, (Butler) had a lot of talent with a great coach. We pride ourselves on getting after it on both sides of the floor and that was the one team I thought matched our intensity that year.
Many great players have come and gone without a ring at Duke. What does it mean to you to win a championship at a program like Duke with a coach like Mike Krzyzewski?
It was a dream come true. When you are playing basketball as a kid it was my dream to win a championship at every level. That one is the most difficult to get and to have that and win a title under Coach K is something I will cherish for the rest of my life.
What stands out the most about the teams run to the championship that year?
I am still really good friends with everybody on the team, and all the seniors had a really good camaraderie that year and I think that’s what propelled us to winning the championship.