Kansas erases historic deficit to take the men’s national basketball title

The Kansas Jayhawks defeated the North Carolina Tar Heels Monday after trailing by 16 points in the first half. It was the biggest comeback in a national championship in men's college basketball history in a tournament with many historic moments, including the final game this weekend of Duke's coach Mike Krzyzewski. Author and Washington Post columnist John Feinstein joins Judy Woodruff with more.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    In case you were doing something else last night, there was quite a college basketball game played in New Orleans.

    The Kansas Jayhawks defeated the North Carolina Tar Heels after trailing by 16 points in the first half. It was the biggest comeback in a national championship in men's college basketball history. And, in fact, this was a tournament with many historic moments, including the final game this weekend of Duke's Coach K, Mike Krzyzewski.

    Author and sportswriter John Feinstein is here with me now to talk about it all. He's also a columnist for The Washington Post.

    John Feinstein, we are so glad to have you here to talk about all of this.

    This outcome last night was not what you would have predicted, looking at that first half.

  • John Feinstein, Sportswriter/Author:

    No, absolutely not.

    And it's funny, because Bill Self, who won the national championship coaching Kansas in 2008, made the comment after the game that — he asked his players at halftime, what's harder, coming back from nine points down with 2:12 to go or 15 with 20 minutes to go?

    Because, when they won the national championship last in 2008, they were down nine in the championship game with 2:12 to go. And in today's college basketball, with the 30-second clock and the three-point shot that people take all the time, 15-point lead isn't what it used to be.

    And so — and with nine minutes to go, Kansas was actually up six, and then Carolina rallied.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, so what happened? I mean, how did they turn it around?

  • John Feinstein:

    Well, they started getting the ball inside more. They took advantage of their size and the fact that Carolina's big man, Armando Bacot, had a turned ankle from the Duke game and wasn't quite 100 percent, although he played very well.

    And they started to make some shots. North Carolina couldn't make three all night. They were five for 27. Kansas wasn't that much better, but they were six for 17. And, ultimately, they won by three points.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, they have got a lot — they got a lot to celebrate.

    At the same time, John Feinstein as they're celebrating, they are — they're basking in the glow, this huge win. But there's also this cloud hanging out there, because they are — they have been charged with so-called level one violations from the NCAA.

  • John Feinstein:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Remind us what all that is about.

  • John Feinstein:

    Well, it goes back to the FBI investigation of college basketball in 2017.

    A number of teams, including Kansas, were cited in that investigation. And the NCAA, as usual, has taken forever to try to adjudicate most of these cases. They just a month ago sent LSU, which was mentioned in the investigation, a notice of allegations. And Will Wade, the coach there, was fired, but he's never won national championships.

    And now Kansas has received a notice of allegations of serious charges, not like giving kids T-shirts, more significant stuff than that. And Mark Emmert, the president of the NCAA, said last week: We're close. We should have a decision this case before next season starts.

    Honestly, I will believe it when I see it, Judy.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Taking — why does it take so long?

  • John Feinstein:

    Well, some of it is because they don't have subpoena power. So it's harder to get people to just sit down and talk to them. And they can't charge them with any crime if they lie to them, if — they can't perjure themselves, but also because the NCAA is a bureaucracy.

    And bureaucracies move very slowly, as you know.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, you mentioned another team that was part of this tournament, Duke. And they were out of it after Saturday night, losing to UNC.

    And you mentioned — and we're talking about a lot of history. Coach Mike Krzyzewski, after 47 — is it 47?

  • John Feinstein:

    Forty-seven years all together.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    It's hard to even comprehend that he's been coaching for that many years.

  • John Feinstein:

    He — I'm so old, Judy, I saw him play for Army in the NIT in the late 1960s.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Whoa.

  • John Feinstein:

    And I have known him since he coached at Army.

    And his record is, to me, the second most extraordinary in the history of college basketball, behind only John Wooden, who won 10 national championships. He went five titles, went to 13 Final Fours, one more than Wooden, broke the record this year, and won 30 games — 20 is considered a benchmark. He won 30 or more games 16 times.

    And all the numbers are just ridiculous, most wins in college basketball history. And he's someone I have known well, and he's a better person than he is a coach, Judy.

    I know there are people out there who will pull their hair out when I say that, but I do know him. Those people don't. And it was a sad ending.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    That's saying something. I mean, he's got an incredible record as a coach, so…

  • John Feinstein:

    Yes. That's my point.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Yes.

  • John Feinstein:

    And it was bittersweet, because they made the Final Four, which is always an achievement, but they lost to their archrival in his last game.

    And you know what? Carolina deserved to win the game. They made the plays down the stretch.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What makes the Mike Krzyzewski record? What makes his legacy?

  • John Feinstein:

    Well, I think it's everything.

    There's a lot of things that he doesn't talk about publicly, things he's done for people. My brother had cancer 21 years ago. And he's fine. But Mike Krzyzewski picked up a phone and called him and — to cheer him up right after his surgery.

    And my brother said to him, "You need to play Casey Sanders more," because he's a typical fan.

    And Mike said: "Yes, I will give that some thought."

    Well, Duke won the national championship that year. And he did play Casey Sanders more later in the season. And Bobby still takes credit for that national title.

    But that's the kind of thing he does all the time. So, to me, his legacy is more as a human being than it is as a coach. And his legacy as a coach is remarkable.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Is the game different, changed now because he moves on?

  • John Feinstein:

    Oh, it'll be different not only because he's moved on, but Roy Williams has retired.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Right.

  • John Feinstein:

    And so many of the great coaches are retired or retiring.

    And we're never going — we will never see anybody coach at a major school for 42 years again. You can't do it. It's too draining.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Is that — I mean, that's what I wanted to ask you, is, can we — will we see another coach go that many?

  • John Feinstein:

    No, I don't believe we will. And you see it now, that even coaches who are successful move on.

    Tom Izzo, who's a great coach at Michigan State, who has been there since 1995 as the head coach, talks all the time about how the chaos that is college basketball now is wearing him out. And it wears everybody out, because you have to re-recruit your whole team every year because of the transfer portal and the one-and-done rule.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, as an alum of Duke University, a lot of us are really proud of Mike Krzyzewski.

  • John Feinstein:

    And you should be.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    John Feinstein, thank you very much.

  • John Feinstein:

    Thanks for having me, Judy. Always a pleasure.

    IMAGES PROVIDED BY USA TODAY SPORTS

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