Has March ever been THIS maddening? Monday's National Championship game had all the makings of a classic. On one side, you had the U Conn Huskies, who rebounded from a rather average 9-9 record in the Big East conference to storm through the conference tournament and the NCAA tournament. On the other, the Butler Bulldogs, who had battled into the title game for the 2nd consecutive year (a feat unheard of for a mid-major)! Yes, it was the Huskies vs the Bulldogs for the National Crown and, boy, the game was a DOG!
Consider the first half. At the end of the first twenty minutes of play, the Bulldogs of Butler led 22-19. That half was the lowest scoring half since the National Championship game way back in 1946. I'll admit . . . it was difficult to tell what was going on. Was it nerves? Was it the result of good defense on both ends of the court? Were the hoops smaller (Lol!)?
But, then, in the 2nd half, it all became painfully clear. Both teams were just off and playing terribly. And Butler was struggling big time! The Bulldogs shot just 18.8 percent from the field. 18.8%! They made just 12 of 64 shots and Matt Howard, who is the primary reason the Bulldogs made the title game, was just 1 for 13. That's just not clutch play from one of the best "clutch" players in college ball. To make matters worse, everyone else on the team had gone just as cold. In the 2nd half, the Bulldogs had to endure a PAINFUL 13 minutes and 26 seconds in which they made just ONE field goal.
Yes, the Butler Bulldogs were underwhelming to say the very least. But the U Conn Huskies were only slightly better. They were just 19 for 55 from the field and their star, Kemba Walker, was just 5 for 19. Of course, you can win a National Championship with numbers like that if your opponent's numbers are worse. And Butler's definitely were. The final score . . . 53-41!
It's a shame the title game was this unwatchable. It was a disappointing end to a March Madness season that was full of nail-biters! And, both teams in this final were responsible for some of the most exciting games of the Madness. U Conn pulled out some HUGE wins during the NCAA tournament. Their wins over Arizona and UK were thrilling!
Butler was thrilling from the start of the tournament. They barely escaped Old Dominion (thanks, Matt Howard), #1 Pitt (craziest game in history), Wisconsin and Florida! They played unbelievable ball to reach the Final. But they were just out of unbelievable ball.
And it stands to reason, doesn't it? Headed into the final against U Conn, Butler had won 14 straight games. The Law of Averages demands a loss. And last night's loss was about as bad as it gets! 18.8% shooting. Just 12 of 64 field goal attempts successful. A mere 41 points (the worst ever in a Championship Game in the shot-clock era!)
There's just not much more that can be said. The scoreline tells the complete story. 53-41 just isn't the score you expect in a National Championship game. Butler coach Brad Stevens put it best. He said, "Without question, 41 points . . . is not good enough to win ANY game, let alone the National Championship." It's a painful truth learned last night on a court in Houston.