Duke's magical March was inches from ending in the second round against UCF. The Blue Devils took a late lead and survived by the skin of their teeth for a 77-76 win to avoid becoming the victims of this tournament's biggest upset.
Duke advances to play the winner of Liberty-Virginia Tech. Here's how close UCF was to replacing the Blue Devils in the Sweet 16:
Let's zoom in:
Zion Williamson did everything he could to prevent this from ending Duke's March Madness run
The Blue Devils' phenom kept his team in the game as UCF did its best to bring them down. He had 32 points and 11 rebounds, and was even 5 for 7 on 3-pointers. Duke's star almost couldn't have done more for his team.
Zion took over down the stretch and won his final dual with 7-foot-6 UCF center Tacko Fall as the game was on the line:
RJ Barrett gave Duke the final lead with his putback after Williamson missed the ensuing free throw.
Aubrey Dawkins was on fire for UCF
The 7-foot-6 Fall rightfully grabbed a ton of headlines leading up to the game, but UCF's junior wing drove the Knights' upset bid. He matched Williamson's 32 points, played 39 of the game's 40 minutes, and was by far his team's leading scorer. Fall and B.J. Taylor added 15 points apiece for the Knights.
Dawkins hit crucial buckets for UCF down the stretch, giving the Knights a 72-70 lead on a stepback jumper with 3 minutes remaining. It was almost enough.
This would have been by far the biggest upset so far this March
Even after a first few rounds that featured mostly chalk, only two perfect brackets remained among all the major online bracket games entering Duke-UCF. Neither of those brackets picked UCF to win the game.
Not only would a Duke loss have ruined those two brackets, but it would have had a major effect on just about any bracket group in America. The Blue Devils were by far the most popular pick to win the tournament, with 39 percent of NCAA.com bracket challenge participants choosing Duke as their champion. Seeing as picking the winner is by far the most important part of winning your bracket challenge, (picking the championship game correctly is worth the same for your bracket as picking all 32 first-round games perfectly) a Duke loss would have changed bracket games across the country.