Tuesday April 5th, 2011

NCAA Championship: Report Card
In a game like that, with inspired defense and insipid shooting, grades will have to be handed out on a bit of a curve. On effort alone, everyone passes (even if those passes typically led to missed jumpers -- zing!), but expectations for each individual play a large role in his final mark.
 
UConn Huskies
 
B-
Kemba Walker, G
37 minutes, 16 points (5-19 FG), 9 rebounds, 0 assists
Not a great night -- or Final Four -- for one of the nation's best players, but his constant threat on the floor made Butler expend a ton of energy to limit him.
B+
Jeremy Lamb, G
31 minutes, 12 points (4-8 FG), 7 rebounds
Not a huge stat line, but a much bigger impact than it suggests. Lamb was the source of offense that kicked off UConn's game-deciding, second-half surge after the Huskies were down by six. Also defended awfully well for a guy who was benched in January for his defense.
C+
Roscoe Smith, F
22 minutes, 0 points (0-2 FG), 4 rebounds, 4 blocks
Had several impactful, statement-making shot blocks and, like everyone else on UConn, used his length and athleticism to really bother Butler. His ability to hold up defensively when UConn played small was an important factor.
INC
Tyler Olander, F
7 minutes, 2 points (1-3 FG), 3 rebounds
Figurehead starter scored the first bucket of both Final Four games for the Huskies. Obviously, not a major factor having only played seven minutes, but was fine in his limited time.
A-
Alex Oriakhi, C
25 minutes, 11 points (5-6 FG), 11 rebs, 4 blocks, countless intimidations
Best player on the floor. Efficient on offense, very robust on the glass and a huge reason why Butler shot an unfathomable 3-for-31 from inside the arc. First-half foul trouble that limited his minutes is the only demerit.
B
The Bench
78 minutes, 12 points (4-17 FG), 17 rebounds
Shabazz Napier (pictured) was his typical presence defensively and in giving UConn a different offensive look with Walker off the ball. The rest of the bench played much heavier minutes than normal, especially Niels Giffey (24 minutes), which was crucial for a fatigued team and makes the overall defensive effort even more impressive given the different faces getting run.
A-
Jim Calhoun, Coach
Made a very strong halftime adjustment to go away from high screens and work motion more off the baseline. He's seen a few games in his time and the experience counted. Had his team very ready to defend and bang for 40 minutes, which is required to beat Butler.
 
Butler Bulldogs
 
C
Shelvin Mack, G
36 minutes, 13 points (4-15 FG, 4-11 3FG), 9 rebounds
Found openings from the arc a couple of times off the bounce. Made a couple late threes when the game was all but over to make the overall scoring numbers look a bit better. Worked hard on the glass.
C
Shawn Vanzant, G
36 minutes, 5 points (2-10 FG, 1-5 3FG), 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals
Similar to Mack (and everyone else). Rebounded well for his size, couldn't make open shots when he had them. Got stuffed (and/or fouled) on a bad choice in transition that led to break and foul on other end during crucial second-half sequence.
C
Chase Stigall, G
16 minutes, 9 points (3-11 FG, 3-9 3FG), 2 rebounds
Maybe took too many shots, but he was the only one making them for a long while, so hard to complain. Made three to open the second half and then Butler missed 19 of its next 20 shots.
D+
Matt Howard, F
37 minutes, 7 points (1-13 FG, 1-6 3FG), 6 rebounds
Obviously, a very disappointing career-capper for the Butler star. Played well defensively in the first half, but was rendered invisible by Alex Oriakhi and Co. It's a rough grade for a great kid who played hard, but Butler needed a lot more from him.
C-
Andrew Smith, C
29 minutes, 5 points (2-9 FG), 9 rebounds (6 offensive)
Smith often found himself in very good position, either through a post feed or an offensive rebound, but couldn't convert. Credit UConn to an extent and also realize that Smith's only a sophomore and still has a ton of room for poise and improvement, despite huge strides.
D
The Bench
46 minutes, 2 points (0-6 FG), 6 rebounds
Ronald Nored was dogged defensively, really working to keep track of Kemba Walker, especially when Walker was off the ball. Beyond that, the bench was a complete zero.
B
Brad Stevens, Coach
Not sure what else he was supposed to do aside from check in the game himself and chuck up a couple of 3s. Had team well-prepared. Didn't like the move to the zone later in the second half, but it was more an all-or-nothing gamble on a game that was slipping away.
 

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