I hate to say it, but last night’s final was the worst I have seen, and I have been to more than 20.
Butler’s 18.8 percent field-goal percentage is a record low, and the final score of 53-41 was the lowest since 1949, when Kentucky beat Oklahoma State 46-36. It is a shame that after a great NCAA Tournament, it ended this way.
Credit UConn’s defense. It was amazing. But Butler’s woeful shooting included 9-for-33 from 3. They made only three 2-point field goals as UConn’s Alex Oriakhi dominated Butler’s big men, Matt Howard and Andrew Smith. Howard ended his career with maybe his worst game, shooting 1-for-13. UConn scored 26 points in the paint to Butler’s two.
It’s not as if UConn was any good offensively. The Huskies shot only 35 percent from the field. Kemba Walker had a poor game for him, scoring “only” 16 points. It was Jeremy Lamb’s second half that was the difference. After not scoring a point in the opening 20 minutes, he had 12 second-half points. Butler as a team only had 19.
But in my view, the difference was Oriakhi. He had 11 points and 11 rebounds to go along with four blocked shots. And what game was the media watching? Oriakhi did not make the all-tournament team. He should have been the MVP. His teammates Walker and Lamb made it (Walker was the MVP), along with Shelvin Mack and Howard of Butler. The final all-tournament selection was Jamie Skeen of VCU.
So Cinderella will have to wait awhile. The champion is again one of the big boys, and this one will hurt those midmajor proponents. Last year, Butler almost won. Tonight, the Bulldogs didn’t belong on the court. But it shouldn’t take away from the spectacular two seasons Butler and head coach Brad Stevens had. And they did get one tournament championship at the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic. UConn also won a tournament in Hawaii, capturing the Maui Invitational.
It was a subdued crowd here at Reliant Stadium. Most of the 70,000 were rooting for Butler, and they had nothing to cheer for in the second half. Credit UConn coach Jim Calhoun as he becomes one of a select few to win three championships, and at age 68, the oldest. But it will be an interesting several months for UConn as the NCAA investigation continues and Calhoun is already suspended for the first three Big East games next fall.
For me, it was a great four days and a great season. Houston did its best, but I don’t think you should play the game in a city where everything is so spread out, as you lose the “community” that makes the Final Four so special. Next year the games will be played in New Orleans. There is no better place.
Now we watch and wait for the Rainbows and coach Gib Arnold to complete their recruiting. After a 19-win season, we all hope for the good times continue. Aloha from Houston.