Friday, March 26, 2010

Butler's Epic Win Over Syracuse Proves Elite Contenders: You've Been Warned

If there’s one shining moment to an epic college basketball tournament story, it’s Butler upsetting Syracuse in what was the most heartfelt victory in school history.

Three wins away from fulfilling a magical wish for the first time in school history, Butler hugged each other and smiled greatly, stunning the world as bracket-saboteurs.

Not every college team has tremendous luck obtaining a championship banner and cutting down a net.

This wasn’t what Syracuse had in mind, arguably portrayed as the hottest and best team in the West region before the Orange was obliterated in Salt Lake City, on a night happiness and enthusiasm was noticed from a school that has never had much worth celebrating.

In the ending of a nerve-racking finish, the Bulldogs had taken down Syracuse, the No. 1 seed in the West Regional.

There was no one filled with much delight as Butler’s coach Brad Stevens, a 33-year old whose baby face convinces most people that he barely graduated from high school a year ago.

It’s a rarity to hear the Bulldogs celebrate an incredible win and sustain a grand achievement within a lackluster program, respectively turning into a legit tourney contender.

Nothing was sweeter than the Bulldogs knocking off the Orange, a top-seeded team predicted to advance to the Final Four or greater, win it all.

But with all the uncertainty and beautiful landscapes transpiring in a tourney filled with much buzz and romance, Butler wears a gigantic glass slipper after making a strong explanation.

March has turned into a wondrous storyline, seeing the unthinkable happen before our very eyes and dramatic finishes implement the coolest tale in college hoops.

In recent memory, the Bulldogs never developed much hype or regularity, until it conquered the proudest dream and capped a 63-59 win over a prominent school with much parity and talent.

None of it matters, with upsetting sequences becoming the commonplace in collegiate sports where balance and gifted athletes elevates a fragile program.

And while Butler is the archetype of an emerging program that has accelerated to new heights and continuously defies the odds and rational thinking, consider it a miracle of the ages.

But we must also consider that the Bulldogs are a vital contender, heading to the Elite Eight.

The feverish crowd made the trip to Salt Lake City, witnessing a glorious landmark unlike in prior seasons in which the latest defeat was convenient enough to lift sanity in a community that hasn’t had much of an advantage in basketball.

I’d say Butler is elite.

An uttermost performance in the Elite Eight is no bigger than the one that occurred less than 24 hours ago.

That’s a program with young teams. Therefore, the usual pattern following an evident win is that a young core has a tendency of becoming complacent.

In this case, Butler is an unusual breed, craving and coveted shining and traveling to Indianapolis for its first ever Final Four appearance in school history.

As the final seconds narrowed, a saddened Syracuse bench mired in a state of shock.

Wes Johnson, the star player for the Orange, was stripped and committed the team’s 18th turnover.

Jim Boeheim watched in despair and Andy Rautins looked as if he was ready to burst into tears, somehow kept his composure.

So much for all conceptions that this was a dangerous powerhouse ever since Kansas was eliminated.

On the other side of the court, there was a thrilled bench watching the memorable night take place.

The Bulldogs refused to finish without a fight, and never allowed the Syracuse publicity to bother them.

As we know, there’s always less pressure on an underdog team, attempting to establish an identity in a competitive tourney.

Rarely do you see Boeheim’s talented core fall to a much physical defense that humiliated the favorable school of the Big East.

This late in the tourney, any team can escape with a win, right?

“There are no better seeds in this tournament. There are just higher seeds,” said Stevens. “It’s about who plays better on a given night.”

Guess that answers the question.

As it turns out the better seed are the No. Five Bulldogs in the West regional.

Wouldn’t it be nice if their storybook season last until the Final Four?

That’s not such a bad prediction.

The nation is glancing at the toughest team alive in the tournament, a physical core refusing to leave teary eyed.

The stakes were high throughout a dramatic showpiece, but finally the Bulldogs had enough poise and energy to explode in the late minutes. Willie Veasley’s three-pointer from the baseline, bounced around the rim before dropping in.

Whether it was luck or skill, it fell in, and just like that the Bulldogs extended their lead to 58-54 with one minute 40 seconds left on the clock.

“I was standing under the basket and it went in, then out, then in, then out, then in,” Butler forward Gordon Hayward said in relief.

He was a heroic finisher, moments later tipping in a miss for a 60-54 lead with one minute left.

From there, it capped the biggest upset defeat since Northern Iowa stunned Kansas in what arguably will go down as the greatest upset in tournament history.

I’ll rank the Butler upset at an all-time high, but I just don’t know where.

For much of the evening, Butler had the swagger with its fierce offense, potent defense and monstrous dunks. Enough parity of executing endless onslaughts to ridiculously suffocate opponents and annihilate more brackets.

For Stevens, he averaged 29 wins a year in his brief tenure at Butler and has won more games at his age than any coach in modern collegiate basketball.

There’s a little luck for the Bulldogs.

Near the end, marked one of the wildest finishes in the tourney this year, with Butler finding a rhythm by scoring 11 straight points.

The world shouldn’t be surprise by the Final Four results? Remember, there was George Mason and even Davidson almost advanced two years ago.

It’s fine to say, Butler could be this year’s George Mason.