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UConn Won Ugly but Don't Diminish the Huskies or Butler's Accomplishments

Connecticut's youth was not a factor in winning the National Championship because of outstanding team chemistry.
Connecticut's youth was not a factor in winning the National Championship because of outstanding team chemistry.Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Chris SaxContributor IDecember 17, 2016

The 2011 Men's Basketball National Championship game was a difficult one to watch.

But let's give credit where credit is due: It might have looked like the Bulldogs decided to play dead, but in actuality, the Huskies made them sit.

Many people are quick to point out how ugly this game was and how both teams had extremely poor shooting performances.

Critics aren't giving enough credit to UConn's play during the game and have been quick to forget their amazing journey to Houston. Instead, they diminish Connecticut's accomplishment by claiming that they are undeserving of the National Championship title, that there were better teams than the Huskies and that if Butler's shots had gone in, the Huskies wouldn't have won that game.

UConn held Butler to only two points in the paint—two points!

That doesn't happen because Butler was having an off shooting night; that happens because of outstanding interior defense.

The Bulldog's bigs just weren't on the level of the likes of Alex Oriakhi, Charles Okwandu and Roscoe Smith, not to mention the incredible length of guard Jeremy Lamb. The four players combined for 10 blocks, Oriakhi and Smith totaling four each.

You can say what you want about Butler's shooting but Connecticut's defense was suffocating. Seldom did a Butler player shoot the ball without a hand in his face.

Just because this game was not offensively geared, doesn't mean UConn didn't earn it. They just approached earning it differently than most, by focusing on defense.

A team can't play championship-caliber defense without great team chemistry. But that's exactly what Connecticut had.

It is easy to overlook a quality like this when deciding who the best team was at the end of the 2010-11 season. As a matter of fact, one coach did overlook this quality when he voted Ohio State as the No. 1 overall team for the final ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll of the season.

There's a big difference between the best team and the most talented team. The best team isn't one that has great players or a great resume.

The best team is one that has great chemistry; everyone should know their role and come together when it matters most.

That's what UConn did the entire season. When they were picked to be 10th in the Big East in the preseason rankings, they showed everyone who they really were by winning the Maui Invitational.

When it looked like they were down and out in the Big East, they won five games in five days to win the Big East Championship. And then finally when everyone picked them to run out of gas in the tournament, the Huskies showed that they were the best team by running on empty.

Connecticut was a team whose 10 best players were two seniors, one junior, two sophomores and FIVE freshmen. You don't win a National Championship with five freshmen if you don't have incredible team chemistry and if you don't know your roles.

Kentucky has had great and talented freshmen the past two years, but I didn't see them in the championship game. The best team comes down to buying into your role and making that role fit into one cohesive unit, which is what the Huskies were able to accomplish.

Let's not forget Butler's outstanding run. They too are proof that amazing team chemistry goes a long way in being one of the best teams in the country. Unlike many teams who rely on one-and-done freshmen, Butler was an experienced team with seniors and juniors who had been playing together for more than just one season.

With all of that time together, you learn how to play with one another and how to play as a team.

What Butler achieved in two seasons has been outstanding and foreshadows what is to come in the future of college basketball. Mid-majors are teams to be reckoned with because of their long experience playing together. They don't have to worry about players leaving after one season and can build on team chemistry over multiple years.

Look for more seasons like Butler's to occur from now on.

You can say what you want about UConn, but no one deserves the National Championship or the title of best team more than the Huskies. They proved time after time that they could overcome any adversity that stood in their way by sticking together as a team.

In the end, they may have won ugly, but behind their outstanding defense they were able to beat an amazing Butler team.

Both should be remembered for their accomplishments this season rather than criticized.

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