Sunday, April 03, 2011

Sunday 04/03 (Butler) Quickie

It's a shame we had to pick sides between Butler vs. VCU. But in the end, it was a can't-lose proposition: Cinderella is playing for the national title -- yes, even a "Cinderella" making its second straight appearance in the national title game.

It is impossible to not root for Butler... unless you like UConn. And as well as UConn has been playing -- more on that in a second -- Butler is playing even better. And if any team can stop UConn (hold them off is more appropriate), it's the Bulldogs.

Now, an entirely legitimate question:

What is more difficult: Winning 10 straight in a single postseason, encompassing the toughest conference tournament plus the NCAA Tournament? Or winning 5 straight in two straight NCAA Tournaments, considering your team is pretty damn good?

It's easy to say: Butler going to two straight national-title games is the most impressive thing ever! I'm inclined to say that, and that's in large part because of the team's environmental profile -- the small school, the small conference. But that last year's finalist with most of its team back made it back to the finals is hardly inconceivable. It's a longshot, but in hindsight, not really.

Probabilistically, it is harder to win 10 straight over 4 straight weeks under the conditions that UConn has than to win 5 + 5 in the NCAA Tournament separated by a year.

That doesn't make what Butler has done any less amazing. When they win -- and I cannot believe the level of doubt that continues to exist about this team when facing a "superior" opponent -- it is going to be the single-greatest championship story (and thus ANY story) in the history of college basketball, eclipsing what I consider the two greatest stories in the history of the Tournament: Texas Western beating Kentucky and Villanova beating Georgetown.

I'm already eying that shirt you see below. I feel like I'm going to want it for posterity -- for all the talk about mid-major parity, there is at least the chance that it will be years (if not decades) before we see a mid-major win the national title again. (I'm actually partial to replica college basketball shorts -- don't ask -- and eyeing a pair of Butler shorts if they win. And then there's this amazing T-shirt that will go on top of the order.)

You all know I'm partial to Florida's 06-07 team -- I think that Noah-Horford-Brewer-Humphrey-Green is the greatest starting five of the modern era of college basketball, precisely because they won two straight titles (declining the NBA in between), which gives them an edge over the Fab Five, the second greatest starting five in modern college hoops history.

Now, this Butler team doesn't have the same starting five as a year ago -- as has been noted plenty of times, this team managed to return to the title game without its best player from 2010, Gordon Hayward -- but that a mid-major went to two straight national-title games is more impressive than Florida's back-to-back titles, more impressive than Kentucky's three straight Final Fours from '96-98 (which included two titles), more impressive than Duke in 91-92.

It's Butler. (And it's OK to keep saying that: It's Butler.)

I can't remember a moment when I was rooting harder for a team I didn't have a personal allegiance to. This is a huge moment in college hoops history -- and sports history, frankly.

Even if Butler doesn't win, it is impossible to diminish what they have accomplished, no less than we could diminish what the Fab Five did as frosh and sophs.

But if Butler can win. Oh, if they can win... unreal. But so real.

-- D.S.


David said...

For what it's worth, Dan, I have followed you for years...way back to the beginnings of the Page 2 Quickie days. I've always enjoyed your columns, but as a Butler alumni myself, I appreciate the space you have given them in your column. Hopefully, the result of the championship game leaves us both rooting for the resurgence of college basketball.

Unknown said...

This is going to happen more and more. Smaller schools will have a better chance of returned success because their players stay together longer.