Top Dog: Alex Oriakhi, Championship-Winning Connecticut's Unsung Hero

Tom FishelContributor IApril 8, 2011

HOUSTON, TX - APRIL 04:  Alex Oriakhi #34 of the Connecticut Huskies reacts after a dunk against the Butler Bulldogs during the National Championship Game of the 2011 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament at Reliant Stadium on April 4, 2011 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

For those of you who watched the NCAA Tournament's championship game, you noticed many things.

Kemba Walker continued to show his amazing skills, and Butler couldn't hit a shot at all. The biggest factor in Butler's inability to make shots was Alex Oriakhi.

The final score was 53-41, indicating a very defensive game, and Oriakhi absolutely dominated inside throughout the entire contest. He blocked four shots, altered many more and shut down Butler's big men, holding Matt Howard and Andrew Smith to combined 3-22 shooting.

Oriakhi had help from guys like Roscoe Smith inside, but he controlled the game down low. Butler helped by missing open shots, but I credit a lot of that to Oriakhi's defense.

Player A's stat line: 11 points on 5-6 shooting, 11 rebounds and four blocked shots.

Player B: 16 points on 5-19 shooting and nine rebounds. Which would you rather have in the game?

Kemba Walker is Player B, Oriakhi is Player A. I honestly think the championship game MOP award should have gone to Oriakhi, but Walker is a very deserving winner as well.

Oriakhi contributed a double-double in only 25 minutes. If he'd gotten the same minutes as Kemba Walker, he would have ended up with a Kevin Love-like game.

While I think Walker deserved the tournament MOP award, the MOP of the championship was Oriakhi.

Not to go unnoticed was the impact of Connecticut's perimeter defense. Shabazz Napier, Walker and Jeremy Lamb were dominant, but Oriakhi was an unsung hero for Connecticut all season long.

He was the second scorer behind Walker in the Maui Invitational before the emergence of Jeremy Lamb. He controlled the boards all year long, including a 21-rebound game against Texas.

He was also the catalyst down low for the team, on both offense and defense. The Big East has strong big men, and Oriakhi shut them down.

Connecticut was an undersized team, so Oriakhi's importance cannot go unnoticed. The other main big guy for UConn was Roscoe Smith, and he is shorter than a conventional big.

If you take Oriakhi away from the Huskies and replace him with a merely decent center, I say UConn doesn't win it all.

Another thing that cannot go unnoticed: Oriakhi's dance!

I agree that Kemba Walker was extremely important to his team. He might have been the most indispensable player in the country not named Jimmer Fredette.

But another very indispensable player was Alex Oriakhi. Give the big guy some love!