SEATTLE -- Not all NCAA basketball championship games are close. Not all are well-played. But all of them have had a strain of title-game chops -- DNA, if you will, that hinted that what you were watching was the stuff of the supreme teams in the land.
Until Monday night's finale between Connecticut and Butler. Blecch.
I've been in the building for 22 championship games, and scoured the record book searching for the long-lost ugly twin to this game. Don't bother looking; there isn't one.
Butler bent rims, it shot so badly. The closer it got to the goal, the worse it shot -- 3 of 31 on two-point attempts. It was like the Bulldogs believed a pipe bomb was attached to the iron.
They shot 18.8 percent.
Who shoots 18.8 percent in an NCAA-tournament game, much less the championship?
The arresting statistic isn't that it was the worst shooting in a title game (breaking Washington State's 21.5 in 1941 against Wisconsin). It's that it was the third-worst of any NCAA-tournament game in history.
Mississippi Valley State didn't shoot that badly when it lost to UCLA in 2008, 70-29.
Here are Butler's new bedfellows, the only two teams to shoot worse in a tournament game: Springfield, 12.7 percent against Indiana in 1940, the second year of the tournament; and Harvard, 13.9 percent against Ohio State in 1946. John Wooden wasn't yet coaching at UCLA.
When, like a roulette ball settling Monday night, the score ended 53-41, diabolical minds (mea culpa) groped for a comparison.
At it happens, the last memorably awful game with that same 53-41 score was in 2000: Michigan State's champions-to-be against Dick Bennett's Wisconsin team, national semifinals in Indianapolis. It was the fourth time they'd met. They defended screens even before the screeners set them.
There was a major outcry over the Badgers and their physical style, notably from Roy Williams, then coaching Kansas. He questioned where the college game was headed, serving to forever drive a wedge between him and Bennett (not that there was ever a particular kinship anyway).
Similarly, the title game 11 years later isn't going to do a lot to primp the image of college basketball. Tuesday, CBS reported an overnight rating of 11.7 for UConn-Butler, which is as tepid as the network's breathless observation that the telecast was "higher-rated than two out of the last five championship games."
Maybe that's the downside of the lovable lunacy of college hoops. You get Butler and Virginia Commonwealth in the Final Four, and you also risk getting Butler playing like it did when it lost to Youngstown State. (Wisconsin was a No. 8 seed in 2000.)
Next year? North Carolina big guys Tyler Zeller and John Henson just announced they're returning, and if Harrison Barnes follows suit, the Tar Heels are the obvious choice for No. 1. Duke will always be a factor, but Kyrie Irving's decision Wednesday to turn pro means more reliance on high-profile recruits Austin Rivers and Quinn Cook.
Ohio State already has a promise from big man Jared Sullinger that he's returning, enough to make it a contender.
By my count, there are 23 NCAA tournament teams that return four or more starters, including five each, potentially, at Memphis, Michigan and Missouri.
Meanwhile, the attrition will likely be severe as usual at Kentucky, which John Calipari has already addressed by signing three of HoopScoop's top-four-rated players -- big men Michael Gilchrist and Anthony Davis and guard Marques Teague.
In the Pac-12, UCLA figures to be the favorite, with California, Arizona and perhaps Washington receiving consideration, if the Huskies can get help inside and blunt the effect of losing Isaiah Thomas.
As for the antagonists Monday night, Connecticut has a very young team, but one surely saying goodbye to wunderkind Kemba Walker. Butler loses Matt Howard, and maybe junior guard Shelvin Mack.
Those are the Bulldogs' tangible losses. Who knows about the psychic damage of shooting 18 percent in a title game?