NCAA Courtside Memories, No. 7: Not All The Games Were Great

Chris Dufresne

By my count I've sat courtside for roughly 125 NCAA Tournament games since 1994 and will be the first to say they haven't all been great.

Two of the worst games, in fact, were played on the grandest stage, the Final Four.

Blame it on nerves, or staging these events in cavernous football arenas, or coaches overcoaching.

Here are my biggest clunkers:

The year: 2000, Indianapolis, national semifinals, Michigan State vs. Wisconsin, coach Tom Izzo vs. Dick Bennett. 

Clank, clank, clank went the trolley.

It is almost impossible to fathom, in the shot-clock, three-point era, a game so aesthetically challenged, as if someone had placed  "NO ENTRY" signs on James Naismith's peach baskets.

Neither team could top 20 points by the half.

We all sat there, jaws agape, at the RCA Dome, to witness it.

Michigan State led at intermission, 19-17. Granted both Big Ten schools were excellent defensive squads. Bennett's Badgers made the Final Four with attack-dog defense and little regard for scoring or flash.

The pace picked up a little bit in the second half and Sparty eventually managed to break the half-century mark in pulling out a 53-41 win.

The 41 points scored by Wisconsin were two points more than the Badgers scored in their stall-ball victory over Washington State to win the 1941 NCAA title.

"It was an ugly game," Wisconsin's Andy Kowske said afterward.

No one tried to talk him off his point.

That game was almost poetry in motion, though, compared to Connecticut's 53-41 win over Butler in the 2011 NCAA title game played in Houston. 

That's right, the two games had the same final score!

To recap: Guard Kemba Walker, who carried UConn on his back on an amazing 11-game winning streak to close the season, missed 14 of 19 shots yet was clearly the game's Most Valuable Player.

UConn won despite making only 19-of-55 shots. They should have handed out hard-hats on press row.

Butler, on the losing end, made only 12 of 64 of its shots.

"They just weren't going in," Butler's Matt Howard said.

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Chris Dufresne

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