Basketball Breakdown – 2011 Men’s National Championship Butler vs. UConn

By James Blackburn

Connecticut Huskies guard Kemba Walker holds the winning trophy after his team defeated the Butler Bulldogs in men’s final NCAA Final Four college championship basketball game in Houston, Texas, April 4, 2011. REUTERS/Richard Carson (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

UConn wins 53-41


Butler: Shelvin Mack , Matt Howard, Andrew Smith, Chase Stigall , Shawn Vanzant
Uconn: Jeremy Lamb , Kemba Walker , Tyhler Olander, Roscoe Smith, Alex Oriakhi

Game Notes/Thoughts

1st Half

• Both teams look full of energy and in a hurry to start.
• This game will be won by the team that gets the most layups, because it will be tough to hit jumpers in this dome.
• A lot of outside shots for both teams are missing off the back of the rim – tough to shoot in a big dome.
• Butler likes to initiate their offense with a double post set with a big at each elbow. They can run multiple options from this set.
• Both teams are missing having a tough time hitting their lay-ups early.
• Howard is going to be a match up problem for UConn. Oriakhi and Smith do not like to defend on the perimeter.
• Butlers post players are more offensively skilled and Uconns bigs are more physical and better rebounders and defenders.
• Butler is very scrappy.
• UConn is setting a lot of ball screens for Walker, trying to get him going early. The offense rests on Walkers shoulders.
• Howard is the only player in my opinion who looks poised and under control with championship game experience early on; Vanzant and Mack are both missing lay-ups and hurrying their shots.
• Interesting- Walker got subbed out of the game at 12:20 mark, after picking up his 1st foul. Smart move from Calhoun, knowing that a media TO was coming on the first dead ball under 12 minutes- was able to get Walker some extra rest time. Walker is used to playing 40 minutes and not coming out.
• Walker has an NBA ready offensive arsenal. He loves the up and under pump move from the perimeter- very Kobe like.
• Butler is having a tough time scoring the ball, shooting less than 20% at the 10 minute mark. Free throws are going to be very important for them to get points- they are already in the bonus at the 9 minute mark.
• Butler should think about double teaming Walker on the top of the key on picks, to keep Walker from turning the corner, and also make UConn’s post players and wings score. One of the things Walker does when doubled is jump to throw a pass, this could get him in trouble if they throw some doubles on him with a big. They should also think about doubling Jeremy Lamb on picks as well- being a freshman, he is prone to make freshman mistakes.
• This game is a defensive war- every shot is contested, players are diving on the floor, guys are boxing out, they are really competing.
• Stigall (Guard, Butler) can shoot the NCAA logo off the ball- has NBA 3 point range. UConn might have to start switching screens if he keeps hitting- he already has 2 threes in a very low scoring game at the 6:45 mark.
• Butler likes to use Howard as the primary screener and then have him pop and look to shoot the perimeter jumper. He is having a tough time scoring down low against the length of UConn, so he is going to have to do most of his damage away from the basket.
• UConn’s bigs have a lot of length, but are very raw offensively and do not have good hands.
• No one on Butler can guard Walker one on one. He is such a good ball handler and has a deadly pull up game- he can get any shot he wants anytime he wants.
• Walker just picked up his second foul on a charge call and will set the rest of the half with 2 minutes remaining.
• UConn is clearly more athletic and longer, but Butler’s players have higher basketball IQ’s and do not make mistakes.
• Mack hits a 3 at the buzzer to put Butler up 22-19 going into half-time. Lowest scoring 1st half since 1946.

2nd Half

• Jeremy Lamb is coming on early with 5 quick points after being non existent in the 1st half.
• Both teams are still struggling to hit shots- The NCAA should take this into consideration and move the Final 4 to a basketball arena in the coming years.
• UConn’s length at every position and shot blocking ability is really limiting Butler’s ability to score.
• Butler is playing hard- they are scrappy, not turning the ball over, playing good defense, but just can’t hit shots. They are 7 for 41 with 13 minutes left in the game.
• Lamb is turning into the difference maker for UConn, this is what the Huskeis needed- someone else to be a scorer, to take some pressure and focus off of Walker.
• UConn is running Lamb and Walker off a staggered screen set by Huskies’ bigs on the blocks along the baseline. Butler is having a tough time defending this.
• UConn is starting to pull away- with Butler going dry from the field- they are missing easy shots.
• UConn is really having a tough time getting the ball inbounds on the baseline.
• Butler going with the zone with 8 minutes to go in the game.
• With every missed shot by Butler, UConn gains confidence and Butler loses confidence.
• Post defense is the reason UConn is winning.
• Butler’s defense is starting to look tired with 5 minutes left- not able to keep UConn’s guards in front.
• Walker is about to break someone’s ankles with his killer crossover.
• Butler can’t even hit open shots.
• Mack is making it a game with 1:30 left-cut it to 8 point deficit.
• UConn just has to make their FT’s at this point.
• UConn won because of their defense- primarily their post defense. Their offense was not good tonight either, but their length and size really impacted Butlers ability to score the ball.

Records were set and hearts were broken…again. Connecticut outlasted Butler 53-41 to win the 2011 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship and give Coach Calhun his 3rd championship as a head coach. Butler becomes just the 4th school in NCAA history to lose back to championship games, joining Michigan, Houston, and Ohio State. Butler set the record for the lowest FG% ever in a championship game, shooting a startling 18.8% for the game. Butler would be lucky to win an inter squad scrimmage with numbers like that. So why did UConn ultimately win and Butler lose, other than a lot of missed shots?

The first and main reason Connecticut is the team cutting down the nets is because of their defense. UConn’s length and athleticism really bothered Butler throughout the game and was the main reason Butler had a tough time scoring the ball. Every shot was contested, altered, or blocked. UConn’s bigs deserve a lot of credit for being able to contain Butler’s post players, with out doubling. Butler missed a lot of easy close up shots and lay-ups they would normally make through out the game because of Smith and Oriakhi.

Another observation I made was Connecticut’s ability to use screens, both on ball screens and off the ball screens. Walker and Lamb did a tremendous job of coming off ball screens in the first half and staggered screens along the baseline in the 2nd half to get free for their shots. In a low scoring game like this one, each field goal becomes that much more important, and Uconn did a good enough job during a critical 5 minute stretch at the beginning of the second half to get some breathing room and ultimately edge out Butler.

I thought Butler played a good game, they just could not knock down shots. They played solid defense, passed the ball well, and ran their sets to perfection. They did not turn the ball over, and they played Butler basketball. But at the end of the day, you have to score more points than your opponent and this was not Butler’s night. One thing I thought Butler could have done throughout the game, but especially in the 1st half, was double team Walker and Lamb on screens. Walker has a tendency to jump in the air when making passes, and I thought they could have created some turnovers and gotten some easy points in transition, when the outside shots were not falling. Lamb on the other hand is a freshman and is still prone to make some freshman mistakes against pressure. But at the end of the day you have to make shots. Coach Stevens did a good job of drawing up plays to get his players some solid looks, but nothing was falling.

The low scoring is a testament, I believe, to not only great defense by both teams, but the fact that the game was played in a huge dome. Charles Barkley was really the only person to really emphasize the effect this has on shooters, and Butler has a lot of good shooters. Most of the misses tonight for both teams were not off the front of the rim and they did not miss on either side. They were good shots and good misses, straight on and off the back of the rim. This tells me depth perception came into play. These kids are not used to playing in stadiums that seat over 70,000 people; they are used to basketball arenas. The NCAA should take a look at this game for future Final 4’s. Not only is it bad for the players, but for the fans also. There are a lot of bad seats in a dome like that. The NCAA should really consider moving future Final 4’s to a large basketball arena like the Staples Center or Madison Square Garden for example.

In the end, Uconn gets to celebrate another championship for a historically great run of winning the Big East Championship and the NCAA Championship. and Butler can also be proud of its tremendous season as well.

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