NCAA Title Game Disappoints - But Why Might Surprise
While watching last night's NCAA title game (and admittedly switching back to USA to see if The Rock was back yet), I couldn't help but feel disappointment from the outset.
There were a lot of things to be disappointed about by the end of the game. Butler shooting 18% from the field, a total of 94 points being scored the entire game, Butler making only three (3, III, THREE) shots inside the arc in the entire game, another NCAA champion who was immediately (or previously was) investigated and put on probation by the NCAA, and a second half that produced little to no excitement to cap off the most exciting three weeks in sports.
But no, that wasn't what got to me. It was knowing how Horizon League basketball teams work. You see, I firmly believe that not only teams, but conferences have personalities. The Big Ten might be plodding, but they wear teams down and outlast opposing coaches. The PAC-10 is a fast paced conference that is exciting but doesn't have much sticking power come tournament time. The Big East is a juggarnaut that you might consider as NBA Jr, but with more defense. The ACC is built behind the best rivalry in basketball, Duke-UNC, but almost plays like a hybrid of the Big East and PAC-10. The Horizon League, however, lives and dies by the three-point-shot.
Butler shot 27% from three last night, which is bad enough, but they opened the first half going 2-for-10 and didn't make UCONN respect the three later on which opened up an extra seven-percent shooting from behind the arc for Butler, but completely closed the lane for Matt Howard and Andrew Smith. And yes, UCONN shot a trail blazing 9% from three but UCONN doesn't need to put nearly as much stock in long range shots that Butler has all season. I don't want to discount UCONN's defense, they're a worthy champion for sure, but if Butler played like they did last night on March 8th, we might've been celebrating the Panthers tournament berth for a few days until they were bounced in the first round. A game in which, it should be noted, the Panthers shot 22% from behind the 3-point line.
So from the 10 minute mark of the first half, I had a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach, because I had seen this show before. Butler is a remarkable team with a remarkable coach and they'll make another run again next year and they'll be dancing for as long as they have Brad Stevens. Butler's loss, however, is a loss for all of mid-major basketball and to everyone who roots for the underdog. As a Horizon League fan that underdog isn't normally Butler, but for three weeks every year, we're all Dawgs.