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Marla Ridenour on Sports

NCAA Tournament fans want it both ways

By Marla Published: April 5, 2011

There's a touch of hippocracy in fans' moaning about the worst NCAA championship game in history following Connecticut's 53-41 triumph over Butler Monday night.

Part of what makes March Madness so appealing is the upsets. This year's tournament was thrilling to the end, with no No. 1 or No. 2 seeds in the Final Four for the first time since the seeding process began.

But the mayhem that ensued also made for a bomb of a final when Butler seemed to run out of gas and shot 18.8 percent from the field, the worst ever for a title game and third-worst in any NCAA game. UConn's total was the lowest for a champion since Kentucky scored 46 againt Oklahoma State in 1949.  Butler was also 3-of-31 on field goals inside the arc.

While some blame the pitiful shooting on the bad backdrop in the Reliant Stadium in Houston where the game was played, it's also possible the Bulldogs (28-10) finally reverted to form.

After all, their season included losses to Evansville (when they hit 9 of 34 in the second half and in overtime), Milwaukee (when they hit 2 for 11 in overtime), Valparaiso (Valpo shot 51.9 for the game), Wright State (the Bulldogs went 6 for 18 from 3-point range) and Youngstown State (they hit 39.7 percent from field). That makes Butler reaching the championship game for the second consecutive season all the more amazing, but also pointed out their limitations.

Butler was also frustrated on Monday by UConn's size on the perimeter and the Huskies' 10 blocked shots, which made the Bulldogs even more tentative.

But those who diss the championship game stinker are forgetting what made this year's tournament so special. Nail-biting upsets like Butler over Pitt, Morehead State going for the 3-pointer and the win instead of the 2 against Louisville, Kentucky over Ohio State. UConn's run of 11 consecutive victories, including five in five nights in the Big East Tournament, was also something special.

Perhaps we saw the actual championship game on Saturday when UConn defeated Kentucky. But I'm not letting Monday's outcome diminish one of the most enjoyable NCAA Tournaments in years.

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