His team lost in the NCAA title game, but Jaylen Suggs will still be the first guy we remember from this year’s March madness. His half-court shot against UCLA will go down as one of the most thrilling moments in recent March Madness history. Gordon Hayward knows a thing or two about that – his miss is one of the, if not the most heartbreaking moment in NCAA title games history. The Cinderella story that wasn’t meant to be.
Back in 2010, Butler managed to fight all odds and get themselves into the National Championship Game versus the mighty Duke Blue Devils. Everyone saw it as a Cinderella story, but Brad Stevens and his team didn’t think that. They thought they were good enough to be in that spot. A confident, aggressive, and psychical squad led by future NBA All-Star Gordon Hayward and current Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens was no pushover. They expected a win in the final game.
On the other side, the legendary Coach K had himself a great squad at hand. A very mature team that knew have to play with each other, winning the ACC Championship that year. The tables were set for an epic Championship Game, and both teams would deliver.
It was a fantastic game to watch, with both sides giving it their all and neither team getting the edge, setting the tone for a dramatic finish. With 13.6 seconds to go, Butler had the ball down one with no timeouts remaining. Hayward would take the ball and create himself a tough fading shot toward the baseline, but it just didn’t fall. Duke center Brian Zoubek got the rebound as he was sent to the line with 3.6 seconds to go. Duke was on the verge of winning, but it wasn’t over.
Zoubek made the first free throw to put Duke up by two. But on the second one, Coach K would scream at Zoubek to miss it, so Butler doesn’t have a chance to regroup and get a good shot from the inbound. It was a huge risk, but a logical choice by Coach K. Zoubek purposely missed the second one, and Hayward got the rebound with 3.6 seconds to pull off a miracle.
Hayward, known as the go-to guy in the clutch, was the man you wanted with the ball in the hands in that situation as he sprinted up the floor. Gordon received a huge screen from Matt Howard, allowing him to get a reasonably clean shot from half-court. The shot went up and bounced off the backboard only to rim out by a few inches. The breath of everyone who was watching that game just stopped for that instant, as Duke started to celebrate in shock and Butler’s hearts got broken.
Everyone in that arena, including Hayward, thought the shot was going in. It was just an unfortunate miss, as it could have been the biggest shot in college basketball history. Coach K himself said he would be in big trouble if that shot went in. Everyone talked about how it would be the biggest underdog upset of all time, but Butler didn’t see it that way. They thought they were the best. And they were pretty damn close. It is how basketball and sports work sometimes. You either cry tears of happiness or sadness, but that’s exactly what makes this game great: drama and pure emotions.