college basketball

The lowest-scoring national championship games in March Madness history

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March 29th, 2021

Since 1985, when the 45-second shot clock was introduced to college basketball, we've become accustomed to high-scoring NCAA Tournament thrillers with huge point totals. But not every game has been a barn burner.

Here are the five lowest-scoring title games in March Madness history.

1. Connecticut 53, Butler 41 (2011)

At half-time on CBS, analyst Greg Anthony said, “This is the worst half of basketball I’ve ever seen in a national championship game.”

The Bulldogs had the lead, 22-19, but made just six of their 37 shots in the second half.

Butler shot just 18.8% from the field — the worst in a NCAA final. The Bulldogs went through a 13-minute spell in the second half where they scored just one field goal.

The Huskies weren’t much better. They made just 19 of 55 shots, including just one of 11 from three-point range.

It is the only championship game in the shot-clock era where the teams failed to score a combined 100 points.

2. Connecticut 60, Kentucky 54 (2014)

This final featured the highest combined seeds in NCAA history (No. 8 vs. No. 7), but failed to live up to the free-scoring hype. Instead it was a dogged, defensive performance that featured plenty of Wildcat misses.

Kentucky missed 11 free throws and hit just 54% of its 24 attempts. The Huskies hit all 10 of their shots from the charity stripe. Kentucky coach John Calipari was also with Memphis when the Tigers missed several free throws in the 2008 final.

3. Maryland 64, Indiana 52 (2002)

Maryland won its first men’s basketball national championship, but it wasn’t the high-scoring thriller neutral fans would have liked.

All-American guard Juan Dixon had scored at least 27 points in four of the first five tournament games, including 33 in a semifinal win against Kansas. But in the title game, he went 20 minutes without scoring and finished with 18 points.

The Terrapins averaged 87.5 points per game in their tournament games before the final and were one of the country’s highest-scoring teams, but this was their third-lowest points tally of the season.

The Hoosiers hit just 34% of their shots from the floor.

4. Duke 61, Butler 59 (2010)

The New York Times called this game, “the most eagerly awaited championship game in years,” and fans backed it up, as it was the most watched championship game in a decade.

The lack of scores did not take away from the excitement, as this game was nip and tuck throughout. Neither team got more than six points ahead, and at halftime the Blue Devils had a one-point lead.

With the clock running down and no timeouts, Gordon Hayward had to attempt a desperate, half-court shot to win the game as the buzzer sounded. The ball hit the backboard and rim, and ESPN confirmed that it was off by three inches — less than one degree.

5. Duke 71, Michigan 51 (1992)

The Devils became the first team in 19 years to win back-to-back national championships with this impressive effort.

Duke was down 31-30 at the half but secured the game with a 17-4 run in the second half.

Neither team reached the 50% mark shooting and there were 22 turnovers. It was far from the 88-85 overtime thriller these two teams played during the regular season.

It was sloppy and full of errors. But did Duke care? Of course not.