Yes, Butler and UConn may have had a disastrous showing in the NCAA Championship game, but before you dismiss it altogether, consider two things. First, we still had an unbelievable NCAA Tournament, and considering the field, that was a major upset on its own.
Second, considering the teams we got for the Finals on Monday night, at least we got something memorable. Memorably awful, yes, but isn't that better than getting stuck with something mediocre? Someone on Twitter compared Butler's shooting to the scene in Tin Cup where Roy McIvoy shanks every ball he hits. And that's fair.
But as far as the game itself, the best Tin Cup comparison would be Roy's complete meltdown on the final hole of the final round in the U.S. Open. As Rene Russo said, "No one's going to remember the Open 10 years from now, who won, who lost ... but they'll remember your 12!"
And nobody remembers who won the National Championship in 2005, but something tells me Monday's epic stinkbomb of a game will resonate for years to come. And isn't that better than UConn winning 74-59 in a perfectly decent, unremarkable snoozefest?
So, there's the bright side. You'll never get those two hours of your life back, but you'll always remember how much it sucked the year two scrappy teams made the NCAA Championship game and nearly set the game of basketball back about 50 years. Some things last forever.
With that in mind, here are a few more notes from Monday's debacle...
Kemba Walker gets all the love, but Jeremy Lamb saved UConn in the second half. And while none of this should shortchange what Kemba did for the past month--in addition to being named "Kemba", which makes him awesome by default--watching UConn in the second half, it was Lamb that looked like the can't-miss NBA prospect. Kemba will be solid in the NBA, but there are probably 50 guys in the league that can give you 90 percent of what he'll wind up bringing to the table.
With Lamb? You've got the potential for a lockdown defender, a legitimate perimeter threat, a second ball-handler, and a slasher that can score at the rim. There are about 10 guys in the NBA that can claim that total package as a shooting guard. His game still needs polish, but if he stays in school and puts it all together, I'd bet anything that he winds up having a better pro career than Kemba.
'Course, since basketball is totally screwed up, he'll probably go pro now, be completely overmatched, and spend the next 10 years confounding fans with his potential, but ultimately disappointing everyone.
After three weeks of watching them try to cover college hoops, I finally figured out what's wrong with Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley on CBS. They're afraid to criticize the college kids.
It all crystallized at halftime for me, and then again on the CBS postgame show. If a game like Butler-UConn had happened with NBA teams, the Chuckster would have been in rare form. That's like a hanging curve for Barkley. The sort of thing that makes a crappy game worth it.
Instead, he and Kenny let Anthony do most of the talking and for the most part, tried to be positive about what they'd just witnessed. An admirable approach, yeah, but so much less entertaining.
If there was any game that deserved a hundred different "TURRIBLE" soundbytes coming from Barkley, it was Monday night's matchup, and we didn't even get one. And that's why, in the end, Barkely and Kenny never quite lived up to the hype. They were too nice.
Butler may have been humiliated on National TV, but they still have the best mascot in college sports. That's probably too bold of a claim, I know, but these pictures of the Butler bulldog made me go temporarily insane. HE'S JUST SO ADORABLE YOU GUYS.
The quote of the night from the CBS broadcast team goes to... Clark Kellogg! After a fight for the ball ended with a scrum on the floor, Kellogg blurted out, "You gotta bring your strong hat and your vice grips today!" And that, my friends, is why he works the Final Four every year.
(Wait, can someone explain why does he work the Final Four every year?)
My favorite moment of the night came when CBS' rim microphones caught Jeremy Lamb on a breakaway, getting fouled, and screaming "What the f***?!" Partly because CBS' rim mics were turned up way too loud for the entire game, so they deserved it. And partly because, let's face it, Jeremy Lamb inadvertently said what all viewers had been thinking for the previous two hours. Like, seriously. What the f***?!
A close second came with Kemba and Nantz. Just as Jim Nantz was getting all excited to tell the world about Kemba's three year graduation, this happened (NSFW title). The question is, as a white person, am I allowed to link to it? Can I get a ruling from Bomani Jones?
Also enjoyed the Jim Nantz experience, in general. There's just so much to love! Like when he inexplicably plugged Walker, Texas Ranger with a pun on Kemba's name. Or when he blatantly overcheered for every Butler basket and downplayed every UConn goal. Or how he calls a reach-in foul a "reach around". That one really adds to his clueless, waspy charm.
And honestly, there's so much Nantz hate I actually feel bad piling on. But A) He makes at least $7 million-a-year and B) The details of his divorce included this now-infamous nugget:
Nantz cried on the stand ... [His wife] could not even be bothered to go to New York City to watch him collect a "Man of the Year" award. Or let him hang the oil painting—of himself—that he received with the award in their house.
But most of all, I'll never forgive him for claiming that golfers were too morally superior to use steroids. As he said a while back, when reporters got curious about steroids in golf:
I would be shocked if there's anybody in professional golf doing that. Shocked. You hear, "They're hitting it so far." But golfers are not cheats. The guys up on the pedestal in our sport play by the rules. That's unusual in our society. It's beautiful… One guy can cause a scandal. The fans would be devastated. But there's not a scandal and there's not going to be one. We should not even breathe a hint of suspicion; it's a nonissue.
I don't think I've ever rooted for a steroid scandal before, but... Yeah. Do you think Nantz announces other sports and thinks to himself, "God, what a bunch of classless urchins"? Almost certainly, no?
And Then There Was Dennis Rodman, Chillin With George Sr.
Because God Bless America.
You may not have loved Monday night's final, but in the end, it doesn't matter. To truly enjoy college sports, you have to trick yourself sometimes. Pretend all college football players aren't taking money under the table. Pretend that UConn's basketball program isn't as corrupt as anybody in the country. Pretend the NCAA's not the most hypocritical organization on earth. Pretend that college boosters aren't some of the most pathetic, creepy human beings on the planet. Ditto for college recruiters, let alone the recruiting experts. Pretend that college basketball's more fundamentally sound than the pro game. Pretend that all the players just care more. Pretend that Jim Nantz isn't announcing.
It's not a suspension of disbelief, exactly. Just... You look the other way with certain things that make the games less fun, and you enjoy what you got. And this year, we got a great player (KEMBA) going on a great run, and in the finals, we got a game that was such a disaster, none of us will ever forget it. So compain if you want, but I say God Bless College Hoops.
(And God Bless Tin Cup.)