By Brad Thompson–
As I struggled to watch a Butler-UConn national championship game completely devoid of made baskets, I thought what a shame it is that a historic, drama-filled NCAA tournament would end this way.
This year’s tournament didn’t feature the best basketball ever, but it did provide some jubilant and heart-breaking moments. Here’s my list of the five worst moments of the tournament (tomorrow’s blog will feature the five best moments). And in honor of last night’s title game, I’ve can’t help but start with the Bulldogs.
1. Butler’s 18.8% FG shooting in the national championship game.
It was as anti-climatic of an ending as you could have imagined for the tournament. Butler’s incredibly low field goal percentage not only goes down as the worst in championship game history, but the sight and sound of Butler’s shots clanging off the rim might be permanently etched in my mind. It was agonizing enough last night, so I’ll stop here, but it easily takes the cake and tops the list.
2. Pitt’s Nasir Robinson’s foul on Butler’s Matt Howard with eight-tenths of a second left.
It what was a crazy turn of events in the final seconds of the Pitt-Butler game that eventually sent the Bulldogs to the Sweet 16. The only reason Shelvin Mack’s foul on Pitt’s Gilbert Brown isn’t on this list is because of Robinson. Butler might not have advanced to the championship game if it wasn’t for a bonehead foul by Robinson.
Butler scored and took the lead by one with less than three seconds left when Pitt inbounded the ball and Mack inexplicably fouled Brown near half court. That foul sent Brown to the line and he tied the game on his first free throw but missed the second free throw. Howard snagged the rebound and that’s when dumb was trumped by dumber – Robinson fouled Howard. Everyone makes mistakes and we are talking about young athletes, so I’m not trying to bury Robinson here, but this could not be left off the list.
3. The five second call in the Texas-Arizona game.
Texas made several mistakes down the stretch against Arizona giving the Wildcats the opportunity to steal the game. The most critical mistake occurred when the Longhorns failed to inbound the ball and were called for a five second violation. It’s questionable who’s at fault here. Was is the official whose five second count appeared a bit quick or was it Texas freshman Cory Joseph who was inbounding the ball? Regardless of blame, it happened and ultimately cost Texas the game. The Longhorns were winning 69-67 with 14 seconds left when they were called for the violation and on the ensuing possession Arizona scored and was fouled. The completion of the three-point play put Arizona up for good.
4. The backcourt violation whistled against the Orange in the Syracuse-Marquette game.
With 51 seconds to play and the game tied at 59, Syracuse’s Dion Waiters inbounded the ball to teammate Scoop Jardine. A backcourt violation was called. Jardine did have a foot on the midcourt line, but was it the correct call? Marquette hit a 3-pointer on the next possession and went on to win the game 66-62.
John Adams, the head of officiating, later admitted that the officials made a mistake and were wrong in calling a backcourt violation. Who knows if Syracuse would have won the game or how their tournament run would have been different, but it was a shame this incorrect call happened at such a critical time in the game.
5. The Michigan-Tennessee game
Final score: 75-45 Michigan. I realize this isn’t a single moment, but it instantly came to my mind when I thought about the worst of the tournament. Usually the early round blowouts are limited to the 1-seed versus 16-seed matchups, but this was a normally competitive No. 8 seed against a No. 9 seed game.
After learning that the future of coach Bruce Pearl was in serious jeopardy, Tennessee had little fight left in them. I’m not discounting the strong performance by the Wolverines, but the Volunteers unraveled in the second half and were outscored 42-16.
So those are my five worst moments of the 2011 tournament. Feel free to share your own top five and let me know what else should have made the list. Tomorrow’s post will feature my five best moments of the tournament.
Do you agree with Brad? Post your comments below.
Brad M. Thompson, a former college football player and coach, made his return to the Midwest in 2009 after fighting wildfires out West. He earned his master’s degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and covers the Big Ten Conference and Chicago sports. Follow him on Twitter at @Brad_M_Thompson. Find more of Brad’s blogs here.