Uconn wins its 3rd National Championship in unspectacular fashion....
I can’t even lie about last night’s championship game. It was boring, there I said it. I can remember numerous times of Twitter and Facebook my friends and family cracking jokes about it. One person objectively asked if they were playing to 21. Another one of my friends said first person to 50 wins. I heard it all and then some in Uconn’s 53-41 victory over Butler. The lid seemed shut for both teams as the game began. Shelvin Mack’s first two lay-up attempt misses were an ominous sign of things to come. The 41 combined points were the fewest scored in a half in the NCAA title game since Oklahoma State and North Carolina totaled 40 in 1946. This was an ugly game of mammoth proportions. The Bulldogs made only one of 13 shots from two-point range, but five three-pointers. Uconn shot 34.5 percent from the field and still won by 12 points. To be able to shoot that bad and still win, isn’t suppose to happen in a national championship game. Kemba Walker was deservedly all the talk leading into the game but even he struggled going 5-of-19 shooting and he had zero assists. I’ve seen Uconn play multiple times this year and they could make most of those shots in their sleep. It was just something about this game, I don’t know if it was playing in Houston’s Reliant stadium with the vast overview or was it just the jitters of playing in front of millions at home and in their seats that made for such a chagrin affair last night. UConn shot 29 percent from the field in the first half, while Butler shot 22.2 percent.
However, what was lost in the grotesque shooting percentages and ill-advised Matt Howard 3-point attempts was the great defense played both teams. There was a certain beauty to the spectacle of two teams fighting for every last inch of the court. The scrappy Bulldogs would not go away until Uconn finally went on a 25-5 run in the second half. Until that point you had the feeling this was just the street fight that Brad Stevens and Butler wanted. Butler has been involved in more close call than anyone I can remember this year besides one team…….. the Uconn Huskies.
Both teams know how to play deformed basketball to a tee and it just happened to rear it ugly head last night. Clark Kellogg, analyst for the game said that Butler is the best team he has ever seen at playing good while playing bad. His meaning was that even though the Bulldogs were playing awful they still are able to hold their head above water until they start to play to their potential, only they never did. Butler turned in the worst shooting performance in NCAA title game history, shooting an eye-popping 18.8 percent and it cost them more than shots as they noticeably lost their cool. The Huskies size with Alex Orhaki in the post and Jeremy Lamb with Roscoe Smith on the wings frustrated Butler all night long. I thought it was just a matter of time before Chase Stigall and Shawn Vanzant would knock down those open 3-pointers’s but to no avail. Butler missed 31 of 37 second-half shots. In a word: Ouch
At any rate, much credit is to be given to Uconn. They were a team swirled in controversy after a recruiting flap that nearly engulfed there hall of fame coach Jim Calhoun. Now Calhoun joins the exclusive club of the who’s who of college basketball coaches as he became just the fifth coach in NCAA history to win at least three NCAA basketball titles. The others in the club are John Wooden (11 championships), Adolph Rupp (four), Mike Krzyzewski (four) and Bob Knight (three). They were a team that the experts only had Kemba Walker and Walker himself was a head case who took too many ill-advised shots and wasn’t able to carry a team by himself. Walker responded to those critics by capping a historic postseason run, averaging 24.6 points, 6.2 rebounds and five assists and commanding the Huskies to 11 consecutive postseason wins. And even Walker’s supporting cast stepped up as Alex Oriakhi and Jeremy Lamb combined for 23 points and 18 rebounds. They were a team picked by the coaches of the Big East to finish 10th in their own league. They actually did finish 9th but in spectacular fashion won the Big East Tourney with a five games in five nights. All bets should have been off on this team from there.
This was the year of the unknown in college basketball. We didn’t have a super power team that was undefeatable. We didn’t even have our picks right for the brackets as the 5.1 million people who entered in ESPN’s bracket challenge proved (Only 2 out of the number got the Final Four correct.). Heck, I don’t even know why Uconn’s Roscoe Smith eye has been black since November, but it is. This much is for certain now is that the Uconn Huskies are the National Champions and they did it the hard way. Congrats goes out to them for all of their accomplishments this year.