One of the worst NCAA Championship games in living memory delivered Jim Calhoun and the Connecticut Huskies their third NCAA title. Al Dannity looks back on a dominant night for the UConn defense and a woeful shooting performance from the Bulldogs.
Let’s start with the positives One bad game does not spoil an excellent tournament. This was about as exciting a March Madness as College Basketball betting fans could have asked for. Ending on a sour note doesn’t change that. No matter what happened last night we were guaranteed one of two great endings. As it was, we were treated to Kemba Walker climbing the mountain top and carrying his fellow Huskies with him. UConn entered the Big East Tournament as the #9 team in their conference. The Huskies won five in a row to take a surprise tournament title. Then they kept on winning and now Connecticut sits atop the nation.
While much has been made of Butler’s offensive failings, and indeed will be made later in this column, the Huskies’ suffocating defense deserves a lot of credit for the win. On a night when their own shooting was less than stellar, UConn came up big on D. Alex Oriakhi had 4 blocks and 11 rebounds, Roscoe Smith added another 4 blocks to that as Connecticut rejected Butler 10 times in total.
An exercise in futility Butler’s failure on the floor was nothing short of historic. The Bulldogs shot a title-game record low of 18.8 percent from the field. That number gets even worse when you exclude their dire 9 of 35 display from three-point range. Inside the arc the Bulldogs managed to make only 3 of 31 shots, just 9.7 percent. Having somehow led 22-19 at the half, Butler were quickly undone in the second period by a 7 minute spell without a single score.
It was a sad end to a remarkable run by Brad Stevens’ team. At one stage the Bulldogs, who also lost last year’s title game to Duke, looked certain to miss the tournament. The team rallied late in the regular season, putting together a 14 game unbeaten run that lasted all the way to Monday night. Having overcome one team that had thrived on defense in the Final Four, the stage was set for the Bulldogs to finally cut down the nets. Instead it was a second year of heartbreak for Cinderella.
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