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UConn-Butler brickfest a surreal sight on title night

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There’s no sugarcoating with talk of fantastic defense. The 2011 NCAA championship game was bad. Awful. Nearly unwatchable. As Jay Bilas tweeted, “no defense is good enough to cause a good offense to be that bad.”

Oh sure, you’ll read about how well the defenses played. In terms of effort, that’s undeniable. Both teams exerted themselves on defense, challenging shots and pressuring ball-handlers.  That’s certainly praiseworthy, which was talked about afterward.

“If you like it wide open and you want nothing but a 49-42 football game with a lot of scores, it wasn’t your game. If you want two teams, I can tell the way they play, they gave it everything they have. To me that’s beauty,” UConn coach Jim Calhoun said. “Yeah, you’d like a few more baskets made certainly. But it was two teams that weren’t going to give into each other and finally our superiority took over. But, damn, I loved it in the sense of the fact of the fight, competitiveness between the two teams.”

Calhoun and UConn fans may have been the only ones. The rest of us watched, jaws agape, amazed at the sheer amount of missed shots by both teams.  It got so bad, it was a surreal sight.

Who knew so many shots could go awry? Who knew UConn could go 1 for 13 from beyond the arc and still win by 12?

When Butler makes just 12 of 64 shots, that’s how. Some amazing – in a bad way – stats:

And it happened on the Monday night that matters!

(shakes head)

Left me feeling like the guy in old Alka Setzer ads, but instead of eating, I was watching the whole thing. And I felt bad for the Bulldogs.

At first, they couldn’t hit because of UConn’s defense. The Huskies were bigger, longer and made just about every attempt a nightmare for Brad Stevens’ squad. But when so many shots wouldn’t fall things got out of hand. Butler wanted to shoot and stretch the UConn defense, but nothing was falling.

It was uncanny.

“I don’t care if they make shots. I don’t love ’em any less because we lost. You know, they’ve been terrific. You’re not always going to make shots. That’s part of the game. Very rarely will you go 12 of 64. But UConn had a lot to do with that,” Stevens said.

“For whatever reason, we just couldn’t make ’em.”

It shouldn’t detract from Butler’s run or the tournament in general though. Both teams proved themselves worthy of playing for the title by winning in the format that’s beloved as one of the greatest playoff systems in sports. So maybe they weren’t the two best teams of the season. So what?

For one night, nothing went in. I’m just sad it had to be title night.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

Illinois State ends No. 21 Wichita State’s 12-game win streak

Fred VanVleet
AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki
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Having won 12 straight games, No. 21 Wichita State entered the weekend one of the hottest teams in the country. And with a four-game lead atop the Missouri Valley standings, clinching the regular season title was more a matter of “when” as opposed to “if.” But none of that mattered Saturday night at Illinois State, as the Redbirds managed to hand the Shockers their first conference loss by the final score of 58-53.

In addition to the 12-game win streak, which was second to Stony Brook (15 straight wins), Wichita State also saw its 19-game win streak in Valley regular season games come to an end. Illinois State was the last Valley team to beat Wichita State, eliminating the Shockers in the Arch Madness semifinals last March, and they played with the confidence of a team that believed it could win.

And after a rough first half the Redbirds found a way to come back, erasing a 16-point second half deficit in the process.

Wichita State’s issue in the second half was the fact that they couldn’t make shots. The Shockers shot just 26.7 percent from the field and 1-for-14 from three in the second half, with Fred VanVleet going scoreless and Shaq Morris scoring just one point. And just two players, Ron Baker and Conner Frankamp, managed to make multiple field goals in the game’s final 20 minutes. Illinois State certainly deserves credit for that, as they took away the quality looks Wichita State was able to find in building its lead.

And on the other end of the floor Paris Lee took control of the game during Illinois State’s comeback, scoring 13 of his 19 points in the second half with Deontae Hawkins adding 11 second-half points. Illinois State was even worse from the field, finishing the game shooting just over 27 percent from the field. But they were able to attack the Wichita State defense and get to the foul line, outscoring the Shockers 22-9 from the charity stripe. And in a game in which neither team could get much going offensively, the ability to get points from the line proved to be the difference.

This defeat doesn’t help Wichita State, but did anything really change? Maybe the margin for error when it comes to an at-large bid gets a little smaller with the loss in the eyes of some. But when considering injuries to the likes of VanVleet and Anton Grady in non-conference play, those early season losses are understandable. Saturday was a rough night for Wichita State, but given the maturity and talent on at Gregg Marshall’s disposal the Shockers will be fine moving forward.

VIDEO: New Mexico loses game on blown call by officials

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Nothing like a nice, controversial finish to get the blood flowing.

New Mexico was on the receiving end of a rule misinterpretation on Saturday afternoon, and that interpretation likely cost the Lobos a win over San Diego State and, arguably, a shot at the MWC regular season title.

Here’s the situation: New Mexico is up by three with 12 seconds left and the ball under their own basket. Their allowed to run the baseline, so Craig Neal calls a play where the inbounder throws the ball to a player running out of bounds.

Totally league as long as the player establishes out of bounds before touching the ball. The referee rules that he doesn’t.

Here’s the video:

The problem?

According to the rules, Xavier Adams — the player receiving the pass from Cullen Neal — only needed one foot on the floor out of bounds in order to establish himself as an inbounder that was able to catch that ball. He got one foot down (see the picture above), but the referees appeared to rule that he needed to have both feet down.

That was incorrect, according to the Mountain West office.

“While this was a very close judgment call made at full speed, it has been determined after careful review of slow-motion video replays the call was in fact incorrect,” the league said in a release. “The New Mexico player did get one foot down (two feet are not required) out-of-bounds before receiving the ball, thus establishing his location in accordance NCAA Basketball Playing Rules 4.23.1.a and 7.1.1.  By rule, the officials were not permitted to go to the monitor during the game to review this play.”

And here’s the kicker: When SDSU got the ball back, they hit a three to send the game into overtime, where the Aztecs won. But if New Mexico had won this game, they’d be sitting at 8-2 in MWC play, one game behind SDSU in the loss column with a return game against them in The Pit.

Instead, they’re now three games back with seven to play, meaning that the race is effectively over.

It’s tough to blame the referees here — it was a bang-bang call that is only clear in slow-motion replay — but man, that’s a big call to miss.