Yes, it was an ugly game, and yes, it will go down in NCAA history as one of the worst championship games ever. Butler shot 18.8 percent, the lowest of any team in an NCAA men’s final, ever, and the worst shooting performance in an NCAA tournament game since 1946.
But what counts in the end is that the UConn Huskies are the 2011 NCAA Basketball champions. This is the third title for Coach Calhoun and, as was pointed out to him last night, he is now the oldest coach ever to win a national title. With a wry grin and a twinkle in his eye, Coach Calhoun remarked that whomever held that record before him was quite young at the time.
I’ve heard any number of pundits talk about the game as a tough defensive match-up and an intense defensive struggle, but the fact that at halftime, Butler had scored one two-point field goal and were up 22-19 over a struggling UConn team cannot be explained away by good defense.
Let’s face it: shooting in the first half of the game was awful. I haven’t heard that many bricks hit the rim since, well, I can’t recall that many clunkers in a game. Players didn’t make good decisions in shot selection–a problem that persisted for Butler for the entire 40 minutes.
What made the difference in the second half is that Jim Calhoun is a Hall of Fame coach who knew why his team was struggling and addressed the problem at half-time. He pushed his team to take advantage its superior size to block shots and alter countless others. UConn dominated Butler on the glass where UConn held a 51-38 rebounding advantage. Calhoun also took advantage of his team’s size and agility, getting them to play inside and run the baselines, and the dunks, lay ups, and short jumpers followed.
Congratulations to Coach Calhoun and the UConn Huskies, 2011 NCAA Basketball Champions. And thanks for a remarkable season.
We Are UConn!