UConn Puts on a Clinic in Persistence

UConn Puts on a Clinic in Persistence

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I must admit: I didn’t envision the UConn Huskies winning the NCAA Men’s Division 1 basketball tournament this year. Or, at least I didn’t see it happening following its ninth place finish during the Big East Conference regular season.

Going 9-9 in league play seems to hardly qualify for a tournament, but UConn proved that they belonged by winning the Big East tournament and gaining an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Notably, UConn was unbeaten outside of league play, going 23-0 as they plowed their way forward. Thus, the Big East Conference which has been derided for being “over hyped” should get some credit too: a middle of the pack team is the national champion and they became champs by winning a classical dog fight against the Butler Bulldogs on Monday night.

Sweet Dogs

The Butler Bulldogs were the darling team of the tournament this year as they were last year. In last year’s title game, the Bulldogs came “oh so close” to knocking off Duke. This year, they were up by 3 at the half, with a national championship trophy just 20 minutes of playing time away.

Unfortunately for Butler and coach Brad Stevens, UConn coach Jim Calhoun rallied his team during the intermission and the Huskies came out fighting. UConn turned up the defense and pressed the Bulldogs hard for the remainder of the game, quickly turning a three-point deficit into a lead before going up by double digits and winning by 12.

Following the game, analysts were outdoing each other by offering comparatives and using superlatives to describe what happened in Houston.

Field Goal Futility

We now know that this is the first time since 1949 that the two teams combined for fewer than 100 points. We also know that the 18.8 percent field goal percentage by Butler was an exercise in futility and one for the record books: no finalist in the history of the tournament ever had such a tough time scoring. “Quite frankly it was one of the worst championship games you could ever see,” uttered Jay Bilas as he spoke with Hubert Davis and Digger Phelps in ESPN’s studio following the game.

Yes, Butler was in over its head with this one. Being up at the half may have lulled the Bulldogs to think the game was theirs for the taking. UConn proved that if you wear the Dogs down, you can win. Ultimately, what UConn put on was a clinic in persistence, demonstrating to everyone why they were in Houston and what it took to get there and win it all.

Retirement Planning

Calhoun may choose to retire following the Huskies’ third national championship in 12 years. The Connecticut coach and his athletic director are under NCAA scrutiny following allegations of illegal recruiting and other possible problems. For now, UConn is the top dog in the nation and Butler is one dog that has to wonder if it’ll ever be able to deliver a Hoosier miracle or whether its chances to do so have come to an end.

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