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.