Tuesday, April 05, 2011

I Know, I Know, You Were Expecting Something Pretty

The NCAA Men's Basketball Championship Final is supposed to be a thing of athletic beauty and artistic splendor.  It is expected to be spliced into an awe inspiring "One Shining Moment" video.  Right?  

If you read what has been written and hear what has been said about the game between Butler and champion UConn, the words "ugly," "embarrassing,' "bad basketball," "poor shooting," etc. are most frequently used.  For many it was uninspiring and, certainly, not an exciting brand of basketball.  You aren't going to have many people looking at the game films or the highlights over and over, year after year.  

However, I suggest that you should look at this game very closely.  Despite the lack of beauty, one team was going to be champion.   One team would take home a trophy that every team and player in the country covets and few possess.  

What I learned from this game, is that this championship and every championship is about two teams slugging it out for supremacy. This game was about mental toughness.  It was about keeping your head in the game and never giving up.  It was about believing in your system and executing, and dealing with setback after setback.  Both teams took leads that they could have built upon.  Only one team did.   

Jeremy Lamb, UConn freshman, who gave his team a much needed spark in the second half, said, “I saw one time we scored, one of them put his head down. I said, ‘We got ‘em.’” 

This game was mental as well as physical.  This game was about effort in the face of adversity.  

"Every time we play hard, great things always happen to us," Kemba Walker, the MVP of the NCAA tournament, said.

This game was about perseverance.  It was about overcoming barriers.  It was about dealing with strong defensive pressure.  Every shot was contested.   Both teams wanted it, both teams gave maximum effort.  Both teams continued to run their offense and make adjustments to take advantage of their opponents. 

Despite being down by 3 points at halftime, Coach Jim Calhoun of UConn understood the championship would hinge on which team was able to mentally withstand the other.

"The halftime speech was rather interesting," Calhoun said. "The adjustment was we were going to out-will them and outwork them."

In the second half, UConn responded and took home the trophy.

We were unstoppable," Walker said. "That's why we're national champions."

Excerpts from CBSsports.ca and ESPN.com (April 4, 2011).

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