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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Championship Game in Name Only

Last night’s NCAA Tournament Championship Game was simply the worst title game I ever saw in my life.

People don’t like it when I write about how the Cinderellas of the tournament need to go home by the end of the first weekend of the tournament, or at the very least by the Elite 8, but Monday night offered up the best example I could ever dream up to make my point. It was the type of game that is to be expected when subpar teams end up playing for a championship.

Connecticut eventually pulled away from Butler to win the 2011 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship, 53-41. Or, more accurately, they won the 2011 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. UConn got incredibly hot (in terms of winning games) starting with the Big East Tournament, and never lost in two single elimination tournaments. They deserve credit for that, and very little else. Butler finally played like a mid-major team, and made absolute fools of the so-called experts lauding their appearance in a second straight Final.

According to the broadcast of the game, the Bulldogs shot 18.8% from the field for the entire game. That’s utterly ridiculous. And Butler was ahead 22-19 at halftime.

Based on my own reading of the play-by-play, Butler closed the half shooting 1 of 9 from the field before hitting a last-second three pointer. That stellar performance was followed up with six – I repeat, 6 – total baskets in the final 20 minutes. The words “missed layup” were never so prevalent in a college basketball game stat sheet.

UConn doesn’t need to be too proud either. They only shot 34.5% from the field, including 1 for 9 from three point territory. They beat a 14, 6, 2, 5, 4, and 11 seed, to win a national title, and the 2 seed was San Diego State, which barely beat Temple. They played the opening round of their conference tournament because they weren’t good enough to get a bye.

Anyone who calls last night’s game a defensive struggle is simply lying.

It would be as silly as making the argument this morning that the tournament should be expanded. If anything, last night proved that it should be contracted. I love seeing the championship played out on the court, and, yes, upsets give it some spice. But inviting everyone to the dance makes no sense. It renders the regular season meaningless.

College basketball executives rightly complain that kids can jump to the NBA after one year, which is hurting the college (and pro) game. But they also need to fix their own problems before worrying about the NBA fixing one for them. I’m not sure why the NCAA can’t deal with the issue of kids skipping out on scholarships after one year themselves, but that’s a debate for another post.

This year’s tournament gives credence to the way college football crowns a champion. I’m not supporting their system of ranking teams essentially with voters and other factors to set-up the championship game, but it’s better than what we just witnessed in basketball. At least two teams that are arguably the best in football get to play for the title.

No one can make the argument that the two best teams played for a championship last night.

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