Dance at a Glance: How UConn did it
By Dan Shanoff, CNN/SI
"The Dance at a Glance" has been on-location in St. Petersburg for Final Four dispatches after the semifinals and title game, plus daily reports of "St. Pete Scenes."
Anatomy of an Upset:
What minuscule chances the rare observer gave UConn this week, the Huskies came with multiple caveats about how it wasn't just one factor alone that would earn them the improbable upset. It had to be a combination of many.
UConn provided a knockout combination -- the best creation and execution of a game plan in the Final Four since, ironically enough, Duke's 1991 upset of UNLV (unsurprisingly then, UConn's win Monday night was also the biggest Final Four upset since that game).
The Huskies successfully deployed at least a half-dozen of the many strategies discussed during the week that could put the hurt on Duke, except one -- luck. That was the one factor UConn didn't need at all. A scan of the box score reveals the pressure points the Huskies concentrated on:
All five of Duke's starters played more than 30 minutes. Even super-sub Corey Maggette played only 11 minutes. The previous depth perception ended up short-sided. On the other side, UConn got double-digit reserve help in the backcourt (Albert Mouring, 17 minutes) and frontcourt (Ed Saunders, 11 minutes), plus key spot play by senior Rashamel Jones and unlikely hero Souleymane Wane. "We thought we had much more depth defensively," UConn coach Jim Calhoun said.
We have no quibble with Avery's five assists against a single turnover. It's his 3-of-12 shooting that made Duke fans wince. Where did that come from? Credit UConn, with a defense like none he'd ever seen previously this season.
Let's not dump exclusively on Avery for his shooting woes. Fellow starters Chris Carrawell (3-of-7) and Shane Battier (2-of-7) seemed mystified, and after an all-too-brief hot start, Maggette couldn't find the touch either (3-of-7). UConn forced Duke into a team-wide shooting stupor -- 41 percent from the field, the Blue Devils' least accurate game of the season. Meanwhile, UConn picked a great time to get hot, shooting 51 percent from the field. Take away Khalid El-Amin's 5-of-12 shooting, it becomes 55 percent. Defensive hero Ricky Moore pulled double-duty, scoring 13 points -- all in the first half -- on 6-of-10 shooting.
UConn center Jake Voskuhl attracts fouls. So after his first, Jim Calhoun pulled him. He shuttled him in and out of the game, allowing Voskuhl to avert foul trouble for the first time this March. At the end of the game, as planned, he was on the court -- with only three fouls, no less. Let's not forget Wane, the oft-maligned 7-footer who usually -- at best -- just eats up space. Under the spotlight of a nation, Wane hit both of his shots, two nifty hooks, providing valued relief for Voskuhl and -- in theory -- the scoring difference in the game.
As the saying goes: You can't stop Elton Brand, you can only hope to contain him. Calhoun understood this. With defenders quick enough to recover after double-teaming, he sent players into the paint to help lock up Brand as soon as the player of the year could touch the ball. "They were fighting the possession every time I touched it," Brand said. A cursory glance at Brand's stats shows a pretty good game: 15 points, 13 rebounds. But the big man took just eight shots, two fewer than his average, but about eight fewer than he needed to take for Duke to win the game. The job on Brand was typical of a dominant performance overall for the Huskies in the paint; UConn won the rebounding war, 41-31.
The Glance's All-Tournament Team
Elton Brand, C, Duke
Most Outstanding Player: Richard Hamilton
Hindsight is 66/33 -- almost
Starting on Selection Sunday and updating round by round, the Glance made predictions on all 63 tournament games. The final tally: 41-22, nearly 66 percent. Back on March 8 (we checked), we predicted Duke would defeat UConn in the title game. Not terribly bold, and almost correct -- a nice complement to our wacked-out picks, like Siena to the Sweet 16 and Miami (Ohio) gone in the first round and Utah to the Final Four.
In the end, the tournament was as thrilling as always, with -- as it should have been -- the best two teams battling it out for the title and the top team earning the title on the court in the best championship game of the decade.
So congrats to UConn. And here's one last prediction: If Elton Brand, William Avery and Corey Maggette all decide to stick around for another year of college life, we'll see them in this game again next year, holding the championship trophy high. Defeat is often the ultimate motivation.
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