But strip away everything else, and what happened in Dallas was – not be dismissive – just another basketball game. And basketball games tend to be decided in much the same way the Bulldogs won on Friday night.
For example, defense. Vic Schaefer’s squad defended ferociously for all 45 minutes. They beat UConn to spots; they deflected passes; they were more physical than a team that prides itself on its strength and physicality; they never, ever stopped moving.
Also, quickness. Mississippi State revealed UConn’s greatest flaw – footspeed. Pound-for-pound, the Huskies were bigger and stronger, but the Bulldogs’ guards were able to get past UConn’s perimeter defense to find open areas to shoot or pass, and to start drives to the basket. Morgan William’s game-winning shot was the most obvious example, but it was one of many.
Friday night was not an archetypal example of a favorite having its worst game while the underdog has its best, but UConn wasn’t the UConn we’ve seen all season. They were tentative, unsteady, uncertain and heavy-footed. They moved the ball sluggishly, rarely stretching and stressing the MSU defense. Much of the Huskies’ struggles indeed resulted from the Bulldogs’ effort, but not all – from the opening tip, in a UConn team stocked with star players capable of taking over any game, nobody demanded the ball.
Was Mississippi State’s victory historic? No doubt. Was how they achieved it unique? Not by a long shot.