Connecticut Huskies guard Kemba Walker celebrates after the Connecticut Huskies defeated the Butler Bulldogs during their men’s final NCAA Final Four college basketball game in Houston, Texas, April 4, 2011. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
Connecticut shot 34.5% from the field, including 1-of-11 from long range, and turned the ball over five more times than Butler and still won the game by 12 points.
More than anything else, the story tonight was Butler’s shooting. They made just 12-of-64 (19%) from the field, and only 3-of-31 (10%) from two-point range thanks in part to UConn’s 10 blocked shots.
Greg Anthony called it the worst performance he’s ever seen in a championship game and that’s half true. It was a terrible shooting performance, but the Bulldogs played pretty great defense, holding UConn to just 53 points on 35% shooting. So for that they should be commended.
Regarding the shooting, UConn contested a lot of shots, but the Bulldogs missed some open looks as well. If anything, tonight’s game is yet another argument that the Final Four should take place in a basketball arena instead of in a football stadium. There was a piece in the Wall Street Journal today about how the shooting in domes decreases by an average of 4%. It’s simply tough to shoot in such a big building because there isn’t anything behind the basket to help give the shooter a frame of reference.
I’m not going to go into specifics about player statlines because they’re all pretty ugly (on both sides), but the play of UConn’s Alex Oriakhi (5-of-6 from the field, 11 points, 11 rebounds, four blocks) and Jeremy Lamb (12 second-half points, seven rebounds, two assists, one steal and one block) were collectively the difference in the game. Oriakhi gave Matt Howard and Andrew Smith fits around the basket and Lamb’s scoring broke the game open in the second half.
Congratulations to Jim Calhoun and UConn on a great year. It’s amazing to think that we have a national champion who didn’t even finish in the TOP HALF of its conference. (UConn was 9th out of 16 teams in the Big East.) Since they didn’t bother to mention it during the telecast, let’s not forget that Calhoun will be suspended for the first three games of the Big East schedule next season for recruiting violations that happened under his watch. For his part, Calhoun has fought the NCAA’s ruling every step of the way.
Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari watches over his team during their practice for their upcoming NCAA Final Four college basketball game in Houston, Texas, April 1, 2011. REUTERS/Jeff Haynes (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
The smoke is gathering around John Calipari.
Allegations have emerged as part of an ongoing FoxSports.com investigation that one of Calipari’s former assistants broke NCAA recruiting violations.
But a nearly two-year FOXSports.com investigation revealed that [Bilal] Batley also broke NCAA rules by making repeated impermissible telephone calls while at both Memphis and Kentucky to recruits, such as DeMarcus Cousins, and their parents.
When approached by a FOXSports.com reporter after his news conference on Friday, Calipari refused to address any questions concerning whether he was aware of Batley’s calls and whether or not Kentucky self-reported the violations.
NCAA rules state that all telephone calls made to or received from a recruit, his parents, legal guardians or coaches must be made and received by a team’s head coach or three countable assistant coaches.
According to Memphis and Kentucky, Batley was not a countable coach at either school.
The report goes on to quote Cousins in saying that Batley played a “big role” in his decision to follow Calipari to Kentucky.
“We stayed in contact with him frequently,” DeMarcus Cousins told FOXSports.com.
High-schooler (and top 2012 point guard recruit) L.J. Rose admitted that he spoke to Batley frequently while he was at Kentucky.
Batley has something of a checkered past, including an accident in Texas in which he was driving a van full of players. Two players were killed and five others were injured. He was not indicted.
He also worked for Kelvin Sampson at Indiana during the time when Sampson and his staff were found to have broken recruiting violations. Batley joined Calipari in Memphis about a month after one of the players) he was recruiting at Indiana (Nolan Dennis committed to Memphis. Hmm.
At best, Calipari is guilty of bad judgment in hiring Batley. At worst, he knew about the illegal contact and turned a blind eye. Worse yet, he endorsed it.
Nothing has stuck to Calipari in his college coaching career, but both of his trips to the Final Four (at UMass and Memphis) have been vacated due to NCAA violations. Marcus Camby was found to have had illegal contact with an agent while Derrick Rose had someone else take his SAT.
Is this year’s Final Four appearance next on the list?
Connecticut Huskies’ head coach Jim Calhoun (L) and Butler Bulldogs’ head coach Brad Stevens talk before a television interview about their teams’ meeting in the NCAA Men’s Final Four championship college basketball game in Houston, Texas, April 3, 2011. REUTERS/Jeff Haynes (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
Gary Parrish, CBSSports.com: But no school like Butler or one from a league like the Horizon has won a championship in the modern era, and it’s been more than two decades since a program operating without the advantages provided by the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Big East, Pac-10 or SEC has cut nets on a Brad Stevens is a lot like the rest of us. He loves the underdog story. He cheers for Rocky Balboa against Apollo Creed, for the Indians in Major League, for John McClane at Nakatomi Plaza. He’ll turn on the Masters next weekend and hope to spend Sunday watching an unknown challenge for a green jacket. He watches football every season and yells for the Boise States and TCUs. “You bet,” Stevens answered when I asked him to confirm his rooting allegiances. “I have to say, I’m one of the guys screaming at the TV when TCU doesn’t get a spot to play for the national championship.” So it’s not a stretch to suggest Stevens would be pulling for Butler in Monday night’s national championship game even if he were going to be somewhere other than standing on the raised court here at Reliant Stadium coaching the Bulldogs. What’s interesting is that practically everybody with similar tastes — TCU fans, Boise State fans, pretty much everybody except Connecticut fans — will be pulling for Butler, too, because the Bulldogs represent something much larger than themselves. Similar to how Tiger Woods showed young African-Americans that anything is possible on a golf course, and how Anthony Robles showed handicap men that anything is possible on a wrestling mat, Butler is 40 minutes away from showing small schools with small budgets that anything is possible in college athletics, and it doesn’t matter if that’s not really the goal.
Jerry Sullivan, BuffaloNews.com: Calhoun argued his innocence with the NCAA committee on infractions, but his pleas went unheeded. UConn will forfeit three men’s scholarships, one in each of the next three seasons. It will serve a three-year probation and have restrictions placed on its contact with recruits. Calhoun will be suspended for the first three Big East games next season. The NCAA didn’t suspend him for this year’s tournament. It’s one thing to punish coaches, another to remove a fond, recognizable character from the $10 billion enterprise. That makes it easy to root against favored UConn. But I’m struggling with the concept. I’ve been covering Calhoun in this event for two decades. He’s charming and quotable, a passionate, stubborn old Irishman from Braintree, Mass., a guy who has beaten cancer three times and keeps coming back strong. Calhoun wears his heart on his sleeve. His love for his sport and his players is never in question. How can you root against a guy who, in the middle of a national news conference, makes a reference to coaching against Canisius and Niagara in the old days at Northeastern?
Chris Dufresne, Los Angeles Times: The most intriguing matchup Monday figures to be junior Mack going against junior Walker. How nice it is to be having that conversation. What a break we caught that it took Walker three years to develop, under Calhoun, into what he is now. “Coach, you know, he’s given me the chance to be a leader,” Walker said Sunday. Thank goodness Walker is only a tick over 6 feet and was too inconsistent to be a one-and-done… Some might not even recall that Walker has been to another Final Four. Two years ago, he was a freshman on the Huskies team that lost to Michigan State in the national semifinals in Detroit. Walker did not remind anyone of Derrick Rose then because he played 20 minutes and scored one basket while amassing twice as many turnovers (four) as assists. NBA scouts were not drooling when Walker started as a sophomore and led his team to 16 defeats. It took Walker time — something few young players have — to smooth out his edges.
Darren Everson, The Wall Street Journal: Since the NCAA started holding Final Fours exclusively in stadiums in 1997, the shooting at college basketball’s premier event has been sub-optimal—possibly because of the pressure and the quality defenses involved, but also because of the unusual shooting background that players must adjust to. In the 15 Final Fours since then (including this year’s), teams are shooting a mediocre 32% from three-point range and 42% overall. Before then, in the four previous Final Fours that were held in traditional basketball arenas, those figures were 36% and 46%. Granted, comparing shooting percentages today to those years ago is tricky, since teams nowadays are arguably more dogged defensively. But since 2006, three-point shooting at the Final Four has been worse than the corresponding Division I average in five out of six seasons.
When complete strangers start chucking mini foam basketballs at you on your way down an airport escalator, you know Final Four fever has settled in. Houston was buzzing already, and we were still more than 24 hours away from the tipoff of the Butler/VCU game. Fans were moving through the George Bush Intercontinental Airport with their team affiliations proudly displayed on jerseys, t-shirts, hats, luggage and, of course, directly on their bodies with temporary tattoos and skin paint. Houston was ready to party. And so were we.
After getting settled at the Magnolia Hotel in downtown Houston, we met with our trusty Infiniti rep for the weekend, Ray Daniels, and headed to Cabo for a quick bite to eat and a couple of cervezas. Great way to start a great weekend. A few hours later, we found ourselves at the Sambuca Jazz Cafe for some dinner — the lobster enchiladas come very highly recommended — and stuck around after the meal for a few more drinks and some great live music. If you ever are in Houston looking for a place to spend an evening out, Sambuca should be on your short list.
Of course, Saturday was game day, and after grabbing a quick burger, we hopped onto the shuttle bus and headed over to Reliant Stadium (home of the NFL’s Houston Texans) to check out Infiniti’s Tip-Off Tailgate event, with all sorts of games, activities and, of course, food and drinks. We milled around the tailgate section for an hour or so, our celebrity radar already on high alert since we could safely assume that some big names would be in attendance to take in college basketball’s biggest weekend. Sure enough, just before we made our way to the gate, we saw former NFL defensive lineman Warren Sapp hanging with a group of people in a tucked away corner of the event, but we wisely resisted the temptation to snap a quick picture. We’ve made a point of not irritating 300-pound former NFL players, and it’s worked well for us so far so why deviate now?