Basketball: Worst national title game ever?

Let me begin by saying I like defense as much as the next guy, and both teams we watched in Monday night’s national championship game are terrific defensively.

But for all its buildup of an intriguing duel between returning underdog finalist Butler vs. red-hot UConn, the game was — plain and simple — unwatchable.

The two best teams in the country, and they shot a combined 26 percent!

UConn’s 53-41 victory was a wretched climax to a spectacular NCAA tournament.

Butler converted 22 percent in the first half, then got worse. The Bulldogs  finished at 18.8 percent from the field — the worst shooting percentage in NCAA title-game history. Their 41 points were the fewest in a national final since Oklahoma State scored 36 in 1949, decades before the shot-clock era began.

And get this: They were 3 for 31 — 9.7 percent — from inside the 3-point arc. Their three 2-point field goals are six fewer than any team had ever scored in a national championship game.

As a result, they were outscored 26-2 in the paint by a team that was too long and too athletic for them.

Butler’s two best players — Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack — missed 23 of 28 shots between them.

The Bulldogs made 12 baskets and had 10 shots blocked.

They went 13 minutes, 26 seconds in the second half with just one basket.

Connecticut was barely better. The Huskies converted 34.5 percent, made just 1 of 11 3-point tries and won despite a 5-for-19 performance from their best player, guard Kemba Walker. Their point total was the lowest by an NCAA champion in 62 years.

But UConn did prove one thing: The Big East was the best conference in the country.

Sure, most of its record 11 entries into the NCAA flamed out early.

But the Huskies, who finished in a three-way tie for ninth place in the Big East at 9-9, were good enough to win every other game they played this season, starting with a 79-52 win over Stony Brook on Nov. 12 and ending with their snuffing of Butler 143 days later.

UConn was 23-0 the rest of the season: 12-0 in non-conference play and 11-0 in the postseason, including five wins in five days in the Big East tournament before six in a row in the NCAAs. 

The Huskies are the deserving champs and they should celebrate.

What they shouldn’t do is watch a replay of the championship game.

Jeff Faraudo

  • abe

    what a shame, if only Derrick Williams didnt spent much of the time sitting on the bench due to foul trouble when Zona played Uconn, they could have won this thing and bring the pac some much needed respect. they were a better team that Uconn.

  • milo

    Worst? Probably but difficult to say. I remember watching North Carolina play their Dean Smith 4-corners/slow down game in the late 70s/early 80s that wasn’t fun to watch but the quality of play might have been better.

  • Kevin Thomas

    There is always the possibility that the quality of the final game can suffer when you allow teams into a tournament who ordinarily would not be qualified to enter. When Cal won the NCAA in 1959, the field was mostly composed of teams who won their own leagues. In the Western Regional, the PAC 8, the WCAC, the Big Sky conference champions were invited, along with a play-in game between the two best independents in the region. You had ONLY the BEST teams in the country participating. 16 teams for all the marbles.

    Today, if you win your conference, it means next to nothing. You have to win a gruelling post season conference tournament become champion of your league and get a high seed in the NCAA tournament. On top of that, every podunk school where Tom, Dick, Harry and two other guys lace up their sneakers, also gets into the tournament. When Arizona won the NCAA, they finished in 5th place in the PAC10. UConn this year was what, the 9th place team in their league? So what kind of game did you expect?

    This is all goveverned by greedy athletic directors, the NCAA, and the media who want to make tons of money out of hyping and selling an event that does not reward excellence. Colleges and pro teams alike have extended their seasons with intricate playoff systems, and we the fans, are often subjected to watching games such as the one between Butler and UConn. Most of the Super Bowls have been anything but super. This philosophy of rewarding teams for not being the best, but just being slightly above average has resulted in the best tournament in the game becoming a circus. And they want to expand it to include more teams! Unbelievable.

  • Uh Huh!

    It may be fair to say it was the worst game ever solely b/c the shooting was so bad. Indeed, I was getting a bit tired of all the misses by the time there were about 7 minutes left. But, frankly, I don’t like all this complaining and talk of it being such a horrible game b/c I was intrigued and engaged throughout.

    Sure, there were lots of misses, but the game was close and the outcome was uncertain for a long time. Even though Butler had not shown themselves to be capable of scoring many points, they HAD shown an ability to slow UConn down for most of the game. And so it seemed to me that if Butler could only suddenly get two stops and two 3’s that they’d suddenly be within a couple points and have all the momentum. And that didn’t seem out of the realm of possibilities to me at all.

    Now, when Butler’s coach put Howard at the top of the floor and then started halfcourt trapping with about 5 to go, I knew without any doubt that the game was over. There was no way they were going to be able to press and trap Uconn’s athletes! That was a joke of a desperate move. I think the changes had to be done on the offensive end, not the defensive end. That perimeter weave at the top of the key got old, and Uconn merely used it as practice to push the ball further and further away from the tin by the end. I don’t know what else Stevens could have done, however. They just needed a few of those shots to fall in. A lot of them were really close!

    Even at the end, however Butler made a 3 to pull within 8 with just under 1 minute to play. That’s not over! Ask Reggie Miller! Uconn commits a turnover on the inbounds, Butler hits a 3 and then we have a 10 minute contest at the free throw line! Not over! Freshman could get the ips at the line in such a situation!

    At halftime, I was complaining loudly about the CBS announcers (Barkley, et al) for complaining about the game. Hell, it was Butler by 3. Wasn’t the drama of this game all surrounding whether Butler (David) could beat Uconn (Goliath)? Wasn’t the story of this final all about Butler even MAKING it to the final for a 2nd year? Could they pull off the greatest run of any team ever? I mean, THEY WERE DOING IT!!!!

    The story line was unfolding beautifully, so why was everyone complaining?
    I get that Uconn basically stalled the last few minutes of the game, and that Butler essentially gave up by doing that dumb trapping defense, but as other sites have pointed out, there have been plenty of blowout basketball games that are like 90-60, that turn into garbage time layup drills by halftime. This game had considerably more excitement!

  • milo

    Vince Lombardi would have liked this game.

  • takeoffthatredshirt

    That’s the kind of score you would expect when refs allow a rugby match to occur. Under normal basketball rules each team should have shot 10-15 more free throws and had fewer FGA with fouls being called.

  • takeoffthatredshirt

    And establishing normal basketball rules early in the game would have resulted in a more entertaining and higher shooting percentage game.

  • milo

    Going with the rugby match ref’ing…that sorta sounds like a Big East conspiracy. You know, a Big East team should win a mugging because that’s how they recruit and play.

  • takeoffthatredshirt

    it’s just inconsistent reffing.

    although i don’t think there is much of a Big East bias, I will acknowledge that Butler got the wrong end of it and reffing a game like that allowed UCONN to have full advantage on the boards to get offensive rebounds and kick it back out to their guards.

    the power conferences would suffer major recruiting blows if more mid-majors could sell themselves as contenders. VCU/Butler is not good for Duke, MSU, UNC etc.

    Big East reffing is a joke with what they allow, Pac 10 reffing is a joke with how many fouls they call.

    I haven’t watched the other conferences enough to know if any have found the right balance, but I know I don’t like the mold of NCAA hoops right now – 37 timeouts per game and massively inconsistent reffing from play to play.