LSU's defense gave up just eight points in the second half and blanked Clemson in the fourth quarter to seal up the national title.
PAT RILEY'S INCREDIBLE track record aside, it was hard to take him at face value nine months ago.
"Whether you believe me or not, we're at the launching pad right now," Riley said during his annual postseason news conference. "We've been through this now a long time. We know how to do this. We have done it in a myriad of different ways. We're going to figure it out."
Riley's Miami Heat had missed the playoffs for a third time in five seasons. The Heat were capped out and had gone from chasing stars to overpaying role players. As a result, as the rest of the NBA was about to embark on one of the wildest summers of player movement ever, Miami seemed doomed to be relegated to the sidelines.
Riley, though, was undeterred.
"Don't make any conclusions that we're stuck with certain contracts. That would be foolish thinking," Riley said. "There aren't any obstacles, there are only opportunities."
The Heat front office saw something they thought doubters were dismissing. Their choppy last few seasons aside, they believed their franchise and the City of Miami hadn't dimmed as drawing cards. They felt they didn't need cap space or high draft picks to make it happen. They needed only a star who wanted to be in Miami.
Sure, the Los Angeles and New York teams were rivals, but that was nothing new. The Heat had beaten those teams for stars in the past. Riley and his trusted lieutenants firmly believed an active marketplace played to their favor, and 2019 free agency would be active.
Once again, the old master was proved right. It showed in his wide smile as he sat alongside Jimmy Butler last July, the landing of a star that has become a turning point. To some, it was an unexpected sign-and-trade. Then -- as Riley predicted he could -- he unloaded Hassan Whiteside's bloated expiring contract, creating the path for Bam Adebayo to elevate from role player to second star.
In short, the Heat are back, and back to doing what they've always done: gathering stars and contending. From Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway to Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O'Neal to the "Heatles" of Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh, Riley has done this time and again since joining the Heat 25 years ago.
Now the Heat are on the hunt for another big catch. Whether it's a member of the desirable 2021 free agency class or another star Riley lures to South Florida, he has one more chance to create a Big Three on the shores of Biscayne Bay.