Things You May Have Missed: Analyzing the UConn-Butler National Championship Game
Monday's NCAA championship game between UConn and Butler was an abomination of basketball. Defensively, both teams played well. But offensively they were, well, offensive. Butler shot a championship record-low 18.8 percent from the field and UConn wasn't much better (34.5 percent).
In the end, one team had to claim the title, though, and that team was UConn.
Kemba Walker was the high point man as usual, scoring 16 in a 53-41 win. The victory marks the Huskies' third national championship overall and their third under the watch of Jim Calhoun, who became the oldest coach in Tournament history at age 68.
Shelvin Mack had 13 points in the loss. Butler has now lost two championships in a row. Two more and they're in Buffalo Bills territory (shout out to Victor Marticorena).
Here's our breakdown of the championship game:
UConn 53, Butler 41
This game was so ugly, I don't feel comfortable calling Butler a Cinderella team anymore. They're more like an Ursula. Not the hot, Angelina Jolie-looking one either. I'm talking about sloppy Ursula. The one who ate sea snails. They should be ashamed of themselves.
- Patrick Crawley (@BasketballFiend)
How bad was Butler's night from the field? They went 3-for-31 (9.7 percent) from two-point range. Not only was that the worst total in championship game history, but also the worst of any Division I team in any game during the 2010-11 season. The previous low was 11.1 percent by Mount St. Mary's against Virginia Tech. (Hat-tip to Ken Pomeroy.)
- James Santelli (@JamesSantelli)
If you like offensive basketball, Butler’s performance probably wasn’t for you. The Bulldogs’ 18.8 percent from the field broke the record previously held by Washington State (21 percent shooting in 1941). What makes this eye-sore of a night more noteworthy is that the previous record occurred at a time when the game didn’t feature a shot clock or a three-point line.
- Dave Dulberg
While Kemba Walker couldn’t find his shot (5-for-19 from the field), he still managed to get to the line seven times (making six) and grab nine rebounds. Walker proved he isn’t a one-trick pony; he can affect the game in many ways. To be honest, it reminded me of Kobe’s 6-for-24 performance in Game 7 against Boston, when he grabbed 15 rebounds and was the quiet but key factor in L.A.’s victory.
- Jovan Buha (@JovanBuha)
Kemba Walker may go down as the best Connecticut player of all-time, but he proved Monday there isn’t a shot he doesn’t like. If the senior guard has one flaw entering June’s draft, it’s the hit-or-miss shot he put on display during the title game. Call it a case of the jitters or just a leader trying to put the team on his back on the biggest stage, but Walker was off from start to finish (5-for-19). I think his draft stock suffered a little bit because of it.
I can't say enough about Kemba Walker's leadership. Good shooting night. Bad shooting night. Whatever. He gets the job done. The Huskies went from preseason afterthought to national champions, all on the strength of Kemba's confidence. People discounted UConn in the Big East Tournament, then the Big Dance. Kemba proved them all wrong. He, not Jimmer Fredette, deserved National Player of the Year honors.
Monday's win should put Jim Calhoun among the immortal coaches in college basketball history. Despite the controversies currently brewing around him, Calhoun is the sixth-winningest Division I men's coach of all-time with 855 victories. His third NCAA title puts him in the company of Mike Krzyzewski, Adolph Rupp, Bob Knight and John Wooden.
Despite being a great in-game adjuster, Brad Stevens was thoroughly outcoached by Jim Calhoun in the second half. Butler led by three at halftime despite making just six field goals. Instead of attacking the rim aggressively, the Bulldogs were timid and relied on three-pointers and long jumpers, basically shooting themselves out of the game.
Butler made a conscious effort to defend perimeter scorers Kemba Walker, Jeremy Lamb and Shabazz Napier. In response, Jim Calhoun was able to emphasize UConn’s size and strength advantage in the paint with Alex Oriakhi, Charles Okwandu and Tyler Olander. Of the Huskies' eight first half baskets, seven of them came in the paint. Butler, on the other hand, didn’t score a single bucket in the paint until an Andrew Smith layup at the 6:13 mark of the second half.
Connecticut’s platoon of big men simply dominated Butler down low. They outrebounded them 51-40, blocked 10 shots (which tied an NCAA championship record) and controlled the paint from start to finish. Just look at the box score -- Matt Howard finished 1-for-13 and Andrew Smith 2-for-9. It was supposed to be a relatively even matchup, but it wasn't even close.
Kemba may have won Most Outstanding Player, but I thought Alex Oriakhi was the championship MVP. He finished with 11 points, 11 rebounds and 4 blocks and was a constant nuisance defensively. He left the game with two fouls in the first half and Butler went on its only real run of the game, taking a one-point lead at halftime. When he came back, it was game over for the Bulldogs. He was a one-man Secret Service. They simply couldn't get past him.
Even in defeat, Chase Stigall well exceeded his season scoring average (3.8 points per game) with nine points. His impact should be come as no surprise, though. After the Bulldogs’ embarrassing loss to Youngstown State on Feb. 3, Brad Stevens plugged Stigall into the starting lineup in place of senior leader Ronald Nored. The result? A 14-0 record heading into Butler’s title game loss vs. UConn.
Jim Nantz is a fine play-by-play guy for the title game, but no one anticipates the waning moments of a championship game more. In the final seconds, Nantz spouted a pun, "And the Huskies are the top dog in 2011!" Not to be outdone by himself, Nantz went cornball again heading into the first commercial break after the game's end: "Connecticut wins best in show." Two dog puns too many.
Wouldn’t it have been nice to party like it’s 1980 on Monday night? If for no other reason than to have a third place game between Kentucky and VCU. Something tells me that would have been a more compelling two hours of primetime television. Throw in higher shorts, longer hair and a few painfully-awkward porn mustaches and, let’s face it, the ratings would have been through the roof. Too bad the NCAA did away with its consolation game 31 years ago.
Thanks for following Neon Tommy's coverage of the NCAA Tournament. Check back with us in a few weeks for the NBA playoffs.