AW

NCAA Basketball: UConn is a Worthy Champion…Despite What Some May Think

In Sports on April 6, 2011 at 5:54 pm

The 2011 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament was memorable for many reasons.  The “play-in” games, the numerous bracket-busting upsets, a Final Four which didn’t feature any #1 or #2 seeds, and the unlikely Championship Game pairing all contributed to one of the most entertaining tournaments in years.  When it was all said and done, the UConn Huskies emerged as worthy champions, despite the fact that they only received 30 of the 31 first place vote in the final coaches’ poll.

Northern Arizona head coach, Mike Adras, ranked Ohio State first in the poll, even though they only got as far as the Sweet 16 round.  He ranked Kansas second in the poll, even though they only advanced to the Elite Eight.  UConn was ranked third by Adras, which seems truly bizarre given the fact that they are the champions.

Adras should have taken note of the fact that most people don’t care too much about college basketball until March Madness begins.  With the exception of diehard fans, college students and the media, most people only pay attention to college basketball when the time comes to fill out their brackets.  Like the Super Bowl, even non-sports fans are interested in the tournament because of the gambling aspect.

It’s no secret that the quality of play in college basketball has greatly diminished through the years.  With so many of the best players going right to the NBA out of high school or after their first year of college, the talent pool has been severely diluted.  It isn’t necessarily good for the college game or for the NBA, but for casual fans, parody helps to make things exciting, and the nation loves seeing a Cinderella team win it all.

No one thought that last year’s Cinderella team (the eighth-seeded Butler Bulldogs) would return to the Championship Game again this year, but they climbed their way back against the odds by beating this year’s Cinderella team (the eleventh-seeded VCU Rams) in the Final Four.

UConn started the season strong, but limped to the finish by losing 7 out of their final 11 regular season games.  But they played their best when it mattered most.

They surprised the college basketball world by taking the Big East title after winning five games in five days.  Most experts thought that they wouldn’t have enough physical or emotional energy to make a deep run in this year’s tournament.  But they just kept winning, ultimately ending the season with an 11-game winning streak.

The Championship Game was an ugly win.  A suddenly inept Butler team made only 12 of 64 shots from 2-point range (a Championship Game record-low 18.8% shooting percentage).  But wins are wins, and there is no extra credit for style points.

UConn did what they had to do to be crowned champions.  They beat every team that they faced in the tournament.  It’s unfortunate that the ending to an incredibly entertaining tournament filled with interesting storylines has ended with the focus being on one no-name coach’s ill-advised decision to make his point, rather than honoring UConn for its achievement.

The odds of a UConn basketball championship being delivered by the men instead of the women this season were very low.  But in a single-elimination tournament, anything can happen, and that is what makes things interesting.

No one ever questions whether the best team won in any other sport with a playoff, so there is no reason to do so with UConn.  They are this year’s tournament champions and they deserve to be recognized as the best team in the country because of it.

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