UCONN Builds The Shortest Stack in Brickfest 2011

UCONN Builds The Shortest Stack in Brickfest 2011

UCONN Huskies - 2011 National Champions

words // Nick Engvall

A win is win.

It surely wasn’t pretty, and it surely was far from expectations, but even though the UCONN and Butler matchup had more potential than reality actually had in store, the Huskies are the new NCAA National Champions.

The Huskies shot just 34.5 percent from the field, nearly 10 percent worse than their season average of 43.9 percent. Fortunately for UCONN, the Butler Bulldogs seemed to find nothing but iron and glass, shooting just 18.8 percent in Monday’s championship game. Butler’s typical late game heroics and hustle-hardest approach were nowhere to be found in the second half. Although at one point shortly after halftime, they were 8-44 from the field and still within five points, thanks to UCONN’s 14-42 shooting.

When the teams emerged from the locker rooms after the half, UCONN seemed to have slightly more poise. Big man Alex Oriakhi, who I said needed a double-double for UCONN to win, came through, finishing the game with 11 points on five-for-six shooting and 11 rebounds. Oriakhi was also intimidating the normally scrappy Butler inside game, blocking four shots and changing countless others.

As was expected, Connecticut guard Kemba Walker once again led the way with 16 points and nine rebounds. A teary-eyed Walker, who led the Huskies to a 14-0 record in tournament play this season, was honored after the game with the Most Outstanding Player Award.

The UCONN victory gives the school their third National Title in school history, all under Jim Calhoun, and within the last 12 years.

Now Available: UCONN National Champions Fan Gear

 

NCAA Watch: A look at what sneakers are worn in the NCAA Tournament.

Alex Oriakhi with a two-handed dunk in the Nike Zoom Hyperfuse.Alex Oriakhi with a two-handed dunk that put it out of reach in the Nike Zoom Hyperfuse.

Kemba Walker, still unbeaten in the Jordan 6-17-23. Lucky shoes?Kemba Walker, still unbeaten in the Jordan 6-17-23. Lucky shoes?

Matt Howard struggled, going 1-for-14 in the Zoom Hyperfuse.Matt Howard struggled, going 1-for-14 in the Zoom Hyperfuse.

Niels Giffey with a bucket for UCONN in the Air Max Fly By.Niels Giffey with a bucket for UCONN in the Air Max Fly By.

Shelvin Mack, wearing the Zoom Hyperfuse, after hitting an impressive 3-pointer as the first half ended.Shelvin Mack, wearing the Zoom Hyperfuse, after hitting an impressive three-pointer as the first half ended.

Jeremy Lamb puts the final touches on Butler with a breakaway dunk in the Zoom Kobe V.Jeremy Lamb puts the final touches on Butler with a breakaway dunk in the Zoom Kobe V.

NCAA Watch: Butler & UCONN For the Final Dance

NCAA Watch: Butler & UCONN For the Final Dance

words // Nick Engvall

For the second straight year, the Butler Bulldogs fought through rounds of the NCAA Tournament to make their way to the championship game. This year, in Monday’s matchup, they will take on the UCONN Huskies.

Although the Bulldogs literally missed a championship by inches last year, their season had many of those who follow college basketball questioning whether they could make another run. Coming into the tournament they were given a number eight seed spot. Butler defeated Old Dominion, Pitt, Wisconsin, Florida, and this year’s biggest surprise, VCU on Saturday to earn a chance to play for the school’s first national title. Led by 34-year-old, Coach Brad Stevens, who has taken the team from a losing record to arguably one of the best teams in the country in just four years, the Bulldogs will take on a more traditional college basketball powerhouse in the for of UCONN.

The Huskies, led by Hall-of-Famer Jim Calhoun, have experienced winning regularly but haven’t won a national title since 2004. Guards Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lamb will look to continue an incredible run that already landed UCONN the Big East Tournament title. The road to the championship game for UCONN has had a little less luck than Butler required, with only Arizona and Kentucky pushing the Huskies into the final moments of the game.

Contrasting ages and contrasting styles of play will make this one of the more exciting games in recent tournament history. Butler will inevitably find a way to make it close with hustle plays and rebounds. While for the Huskies, well, between Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lamb, they have two of the best guards to handle business in the final moments of the game.

Check out some of the footwear from the two teams’ key contributors and what they’ll need to do to win tonight’s title game in our latest NCAA Watch with photos courtesy of Yahoo.


 

NCAA Watch: A look at what sneakers the players are wearing in the NCAA Tournament.NCAA Watch: A look at what sneakers the players are wearing in the NCAA Tournament.

UCONN's Alex Oriakhi has been a rebounding machine in the Nike Zoom Hyperfuse.UCONN’s Alex Oriakhi has been a rebounding machine in the Nike Zoom Hyperfuse. The Huskies will need at least a double-double from their big man to keep the scrappy Butler team off of the offensive glass.

Matt Howard in the Zoom Hyperfuse. Howard has been the perfect example of Butler basketball.Matt Howard in the Zoom Hyperfuse. Howard has been the perfect example of Butler basketball. His hustle-until-the-last-second approach has actually saved the Bulldogs on more than one occasion. He’ll need to be big on the boards and stay out of foul trouble for Butler to pull off the victory.

Shelvin Mack has carried the Bulldogs through the tournament in the Zoom Hyperfuse.Shelvin Mack has carried the Bulldogs through the tournament in the Zoom Hyperfuse. He’s averaging 21.8 points per game in this year’s tournament. Mack will have to outperform his competitors, Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lamb, in the points category.

Kemba Walker in the Jordan 6-17-23. Walker is one of the few players with more points than Mack, averaging 25 per game.Kemba Walker in the Jordan 6-17-23. Walker is one of the few players with more points than Mack, averaging 25 per game. If the game is close, Kemba will be the one to carry the Huskies to their third national title.

Jeremy Lamd in the Nike Zoom Hyperfuse. Jeremy Lamb in the Nike Zoom Hyperfuse. Lamb has picked up the slack on the rare occasion that Kemba is off. He has also become a threat down the stretch, and managed to grab an impressive amount of rebounds for a guard.

Andrew Smith in the Nike Zoom Hyperfuse.Andrew Smith in the Nike Zoom Hyperfuse. Smith is becoming the Matt Howard of the future for the Bulldogs. He’ll need to be strong inside and pull down as many boards as possible for Butler.

NCAA Watch: Player Spotlight – Kemba Walker

NCAA Watch: Player Spotlight – Kemba Walker

Kemba Walker in the Jordan 6-17-23.Kemba Walker in the Jordan 6-17-23.

words // Nick Engvall

Normally, our NCAA Watch coverage is limited to the games on hand. However, with a couple days off in the tournament this week, it seemed like a great opportunity to spotlight some of the premier players in this year’s tournament.

UCONN guard Kemba Walker gets the honor of being the first spotlighted player. Walker slipped on the newly released Jordan 6-17-23 just a game or two before making a storied run through the Big East Tournament. Walker’s performance in the Big East Tournament led UCONN to their first Conference Tournament Championship since 2004, also the same year they last won the NCAA Tournament. Kemba’s 130 points, 32 rebounds, 21 assists, and 14 steals and one block landed him the David R. Gavitt Most Outstanding Player Award for the tournament.

This being Kemba’s junior year at Connecticut, his scoring average is at a career high of 23.6 per game. Kemba raised his career high in scoring to 42 early this season against Vermont. He then landed the first triple-double of his career a few games later against UMBC with 24 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists.

With his stock steadily rising, it’s hard to not think about where he might place in the NBA Draft, but first Kemba Walker will lead the Huskies against their toughest opponent of the tournament: San Diego State.

Take a look back at some of the shoes Kemba has worn through his college career, and his apparent affection for Jordan shoes.

NCAA Watch Player Spotlight Kemba Walker

Kemba Walker in the Jordan Retro 12 Varsity Red/White.Kemba Walker in the Jordan Retro 12 Varsity Red/White.

Kemba Walker in the Jordan Retro 11 Space Jam.Kemba Walker in the Jordan Retro 11 Space Jam.

Kemba Walker in the Jordan Retro 11 CDP.Kemba Walker in the Jordan Retro 11 CDP.

Kemba Walker in the Jordan Retro 12 CDP.Kemba Walker in the Jordan Retro 12 CDP.

Kemba Walker in the Jordan Retro 12 Flu Game.Kemba Walker in the Jordan Retro 12 Flu Game.

Kemba Walker in the all black Nike Zoom LeBron 6.Kemba Walker in the all-black Nike Zoom LeBron 6.