HOUSTON – There’s no sugar coating it, this title game was bad.
It would have been more exciting to see the cars spinning their wheels in the mud In a 76-59 slugfest, Connecticut won its fifth national title. Unless you’re a UConn or San Diego State fan who has the sense to turn off the TV at halftime Monday night so your retinas aren’t permanently scarred by an ugly display of basketball — you can call them playing basketball. .
It was the lowest-scoring title game since 2015, and UConn would not have scored 70 points had it not been for free throws in the final 90 seconds. San Diego State never got over 32% shooting, and the Aztecs finished with more fouls (20) than field goals (19).
Even if the game is unpleasant, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad NCAA men’s tournament. Quite the contrary. The first 62 games provided all kinds of fun and, rather than this atrocity, should be the lasting memory of this year’s men’s tournament.
“Basketball is in a good position right now,” San Diego State coach Brian Dutcher said after the championship game. “You don’t have to have millions of dollars in the NIL, and you don’t have to get every kid in the portal to be successful. You have to have children about the right things and succeed above all else.
Remember Fairleigh Dickinson? Most people had never heard of the small, private school in New Jersey before last month. Now it has a permanent place in the national heritage He became only the second 16th seed in men’s tournament history to topple the No.1 When it stunned Purdue.
We should know that this year will be a year of sorrows and upheavals. All four No. 1s are gone before the Elite Eight, the first time that has happened in the men’s tournament, and the Final Four includes the ninth seed (Florida Atlantic) and two Nos. in Miami and San Diego State. 5 were featured.
FAU is two seconds away from making the NCAA title game. Making the Owls’ run even more impressive, they had never won a tournament game before this year!
“We took it to a new height,” Nick Boyd said Saturday night. “All I can do is smile and appreciate the run we went on and know you’re going to hear it from FAU next year.”
Twenty-seven years after Princeton knocked off defending champion UCLA in the first round, a player from that team coached the 15-ranked Tigers to not one but two wins in the tournament. What we all learned A paladin — a legendary knight in 8th-century France — thanks to Furman’s first-round upset of fourth-seeded Virginia.
What are the individual programs like?
There is no better moment than watching Marquis Nowell of Kansas State, a proud New Yorker, lit up the Spartans at Madison Square Garden in what was arguably the best game of the entire tournament. Nowell had an NCAA single-game record 19 assists, the best of which was his no-look lob to Keionte Johnson for an alley-oop with less than a minute left.
Nowell sprained his ankle in the first half and scored 20 points.
“Today was a special one,” he said after the game. “I can’t explain how I feel right now. I know I’m blessed and I’m grateful.
Drew Dimme had 36 points as Gonzaga rallied from 13 to beat UCLA. San Diego State’s Darian Trammell had a monster game to send Alabama home, and a The whole country is gratefulThen drew a foul on a short break with a second and made a free throw to put Creighton in the Elite Eight.
Trammell’s teammate can’t be called that Lamont Butler hit a buzzer-beater Monday night against FAU to send the Aztecs into the title game.
Coaches also had their moments.
Tom Izzo produced his old March magic, leading Michigan State to a second-round victory over Marquette, entering the tournament as one of the hottest teams in the country. Dutcher, who spent 28 years as an assistant before becoming the head coach at San Diego State six years ago, earned his first win in the NCAA Tournament. Then won four more.
And no one will forget the joy Miami coach Jim Larranaga’s dance moves. The 73-year-old coach was rocking the Hurricanes locker room after every win.
“My players said you are too tough and you need to loosen up. Well, I can’t. I don’t have that flexibility anymore,” Larranaga said Friday. “You can rate it or the players can. I know my wife likes it.”
See? I have many fond memories of this year’s tournament. The title game won’t be one of them.
Follow USA TODAY sports columnist Nancy Armor on Twitter @nrramour.
This article originally appeared in USA TODAY: The NCAA men’s title game was a dud but not a lasting memory of the tournament