Butler shot like Biddy Ballers.
UConn hung on.
Irascible Jim Calhoun won his third title.
How come I feel like I need a shower?
* * * * *
The truth, my fellow hoopaholics, is that this was the perfect metaphor for the state of college hoops.
Talent — albeit young, unrefined, immature talent — trumps pretty good. Tall leapers best shorter shooters. One Huskie star with a strong will can control the outcome, even if he’s off his feed.
The nation was craving a Butler W. It would have brought college hoops back to where it once belonged. Or so we thought.
Didn’t happen. Not gonna happen.
This game reinforced more than ever: One Shining AAU Dandy = One Shining Moment.
When Jim Calhoun, who now has to be considered among the great coaches ever, retires in a few weeks, and is rocking in his chair with a grandkid on his knee, you think he’ll be thinking about Nate Miles? Not for a Noreaster Nanosecond.
That Butler and VCU made it to the Final Four is indeed a harbinger of things to come. Unless and until the NBA invokes a rule like MLB — no collegians until after their third year — it will be business as usual. The schools with Golden Arches All Americans shall more often than not win out in the end. The Creightons of the world — with 4 or 5 senior starters –will rear their heads now and again, giving hope to the Heartland, but will fade away.
We’ll have to be satisfied with the story, if disconsolate at the conclusion.
* * * * *
When I first considered the company that Calhoun now keeps with his third national crown, I blanched.
But, if we love the sport as we do, and accept all the attendant nastiness and chicanery, which we do, we must recognize the coaching brilliance of Calhoun. He’s won with three totally different teams. His teams have won because of lock down defense first and foremost.
He’s an amazing tactician. His halftime adjustments flummoxed the younger, more beloved neo-savant Brad Stevens.
And, while Calhoun has won with talent, his most talented team, the one that spit out the bit against George Mason, laid down when it mattered.
This team showcased another of his exemplary coaching traits. He’s a great assessor of talent. I don’t remember hearing Jeremy Lamb’s name in the same conversations as Harrison Barnes and Jared Sullinger and Brandon Knight.
Those guys watched Lamb take over the game when it mattered. At home. On TV.
As I watched last night’s laborious slogfest, I kept wondering what all the ballers on other contenders around the land were thinking?
What I was thinking was this. As woeful as Butler and UConn were performing, they earned the right to toss in a clunker. Sure Butler is now the Buffalo Bills of college basketball. So what. UConn finished 9th — let that roll around inside for a second — 9th in its conference. Think that matters now?
* * * * *
Which brings us to the hate aimed at the Big East this post season. (One reader has accused me of same, but honestly I’ve forgotten it, if it ever happened.)
Haters, zip it.
Not only did a second tier Big East school grab the brass ring, another not named UConn is playing tonight for the women’s title.
* * * * *
A few words on the TV coverage.
Loved that Clark Kellogg frankly called it an awful game. Loved the technical insight that Steve Kerr was able to convey. Began to appreciate that Greg Anthony knows what he’s talking about.
Hated that some TV producer felt compelled to use camera angles — some moving dizzily — to make the show “more artful.” Just show the game for heavens’ sake.
– Seedy K