April 05, 2011
Twenty minutes into UConn's tedious 53-41 victory over Butler in Monday night's national title game, the CBS studio analysts simply couldn't hold back from ripping a game on their own network to pieces.
Summed up Greg Anthony, "This is the worst half of basketball I've ever seen in a national championship game."
Stifling defense from both Butler and UConn certainly contributed to the record low score and horrendous shooting on both sides, but this was still an aesthetically awful conclusion to an otherwise exciting, upset-filled NCAA tournament.
But was it the most boring national title game we've seen? Here's my list of the five worst championship games since the NCAA tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985. Others are welcome to chime in on some of the older games in the comments if you like.
1. North Carolina 89, Michigan State 72 (2009): Despite enormous support from a vocal in-state crowd in Detroit and from fans pulling for the underdog across the country, the Spartans were never remotely competitive. They trailed 17-7 after five minutes and 32-11 after 10 minutes, never trimming the deficit to any less than 14 points the rest of a tedious game. North Carolina returned the core of its Final Four team from the previous year, featured future pros Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington, and won all six of its NCAA tournament games by at least 10 points, so the show of dominance from the juggernaut Tar Heels was a fitting finish to the season. Nonetheless, this was as dull a championship game as we've seen from start to finish.
2. UConn 53, Butler 41 (2011): The first Final Four ever not to include a single No. 1 or 2 seed produced a low-scoring title game that had many of those powerhouses kicking themselves for losing early. Butler shot a title game record low 18.8 percent and made only 3 of the 31 shots it attempted from inside the arc and UConn for a while wasn't too much more efficient, prompting CBS analysts at halftime to acknowledge it was the worst first half of a national title game they had ever seen. There are two reasons this game isn't atop this list. First, the caliber of defense was off-the-charts good from both teams until Butler started panicking and rushing routine shots in the second half. Second, yes, it was ugly but at least it was close for 30 minutes. Butler led by three at halftime and UConn didn't truly seize control until 10 minutes remained in the game.
3. Florida 73, UCLA 57 (2006): One of the most entertaining NCAA tournaments ever fizzled quickly after three hopelessly boring Final Four games. Florida ended George Mason's Cinderella run. UCLA choked the life out of LSU. And then the Gators dominated the Bruins with their superior size and length to win the first of two straight national championships. Second-seeded UCLA had made a surprise run to the title game on the strength of its superior defense, but Florida exposed the Bruins' lack of offensive weapons besides sophomore point guard Jordan Farmar. The Gators held UCLA to 36.1 percent shooting, leading by double figures the entire second half and by 20 with 14 minutes to play before coasting to victory.
4. UNLV 103, Duke 73 (1990): There's two ways to remember the biggest blowout ever in a national title game. You can either view it as a fitting finale for one of the greatest collections of talent we've ever seen in college basketball, or you can remember it as a tedious game never in doubt the entire second half. Armed with an NBA-caliber team featuring future pros Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon and Greg Anthony, the Rebels broke open a 67-57 game with an 18-0 spurt early in the second half. Stomach problems sidelined Duke guard Bobby Hurley, contributing to 23 turnovers from the Blue Devils and numerous dunks from the run-and-gun Rebels.
5. Maryland 64, Indiana 52 (2002): Even though Indiana actually rallied from an 11-point first-half deficit to lead by two with 10 minutes to play, this was certainly not one of the more aesthetically pleasing title games of its era. Maryland trailed for just 12 seconds, dominating a fifth-seeded Hoosiers team that entered the tournament with 11 losses but made an improbable run to the title game behind young forward Jared Jeffries and senior guard Tom Coverdale. Indiana slowed the tempo, but it was simply overmatched, shooting 34 percent from the field, getting out-rebounded by 11 and needing 10 3-pointers simply to stay in it. Jeffries struggled against Maryland's imposing frontline, while a severely sprained ankle helped limit Coverdale to 3-of-11 shooting.
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