Sunday, April 4, 2010
The Emergence of Butler Bulldogs Writes a Sequel in Hoosier State
It’s almost a cliché the way the Butler Bulldogs persist in writing a cinematic script in its hometown, before its feverish hometown crowd sitting in the stands.
Fans are almost awaiting a beautiful movie, not to only top the box offices, but to outline an unimaginable pipe dream in the NCAA tourney. No feel-good story in college hoops seems as heartwarming and tasteful, a sentimental perspective that has glorified the smallest institution in the smallest town.
Whenever a team is fortunate to play in a neutral site 17 minutes away from its campus, it’s a privilege every team wishes, yet it sometimes draws a ruckus being close to home where thousands of hometown faithful come to root and heightens pressure. But in this instant, the Bulldogs wonderful movie wasn’t stripped. Sure enough, it’s the best basketball program in the nation, representing a berated Horizon League.
Most basketball fans discounted the rebirth of a Hoosiers tale a long time ago, describing Butler as a soft-minded, undersized and ill-defensive program. One win away from winning the national title, a notion that the Bulldogs can win it all is immense, unlike when the nation denied acknowledging a tough-minded, humbled, and classy team.
This is more than a basketball miracle, and honestly it’s a powerful school meeting tournament qualifications that was overlooked for representing a smaller conference. Living with the concept that Butler is a team with little notability, people have neglected its talented and vibrant nucleus. It’s surely a team that merits attention, strictly for its toughness, unity, and chemistry.
For the entire tournament, the Bulldogs have been vicious by sharing the ball unselfishly and intensifying defensive toughness. For now, Butler owns the Hoosier State, outlasting its interstate foes as a menace in the national landscape. Indiana was fried a long time ago, diminishing ever since Kelvin Sampson cast hideous stains for his infractions against NCAA rules. In other locations, Notre Dame fell early and Purdue almost survived without their star forward Robbie Hummel.
It’s obvious Butler is the hottest team in the country, with its physical intensity and mental toughness. If nobody believes in the Bulldogs after tonight, then what is there to believe in? It’s difficult to put anything past a much-confident and scorching program, merely seven miles from 4,500 students who are enrolled on the smallest campus.
For years to come, we’ll reminisce about a Cinderella that really isn’t a Cinderella. Our country is glancing at a legit program, provoking the odds of an unpredictable tourney. Whatever people believe, it’s a core of heavyweights that suddenly cannot lose a game, and has been unbeaten for a very long time now, extending its incredible streak to 25 straight wins.
Yes, the Bulldogs are victorious again, after knocking off Michigan State in a tense and close 52-50 win at the Final Four to advance to the national championship game Monday night. In the stands, thousands sounded with loud shouts, overjoyed with the improbable defeat and in all likelihood a Hoosiers sequel. Years ago, Butler was mired in mediocrity, fearless and undermined. Years ago, it never made it to a national championship game. Years ago, it never had this much popularity. But lately, it has emerged as bracket-killers and a real basketball powerhouse.
The emergence of Butler ultimately reveals much about an elite program, with more than enough star power to survive as they ease closer to a championship. This isn’t seen every day. Rarely does someone from the Horizon League defy logic and transcends near the very top. But admittedly, it appears anything is possible and promising in the NCAA tourney, even though the Bulldogs aren’t anywhere near George Mason or Davidson.
For all the thrills and buzz surrounding Butler, it’s time we wake up to realize it can win the entire tournament. Assuming that a journey has erupted reliance, it’s virtually hard dismissing a relentless team with humbleness and faith. This team has been fortunate, flawless scoring points on turnovers and shooting threes effectively.
For years, we’ve been stunned by the wildness and politics, not grasping an understanding that mystique among topflight schools degenerates during a rebuilding or competitive juncture. Is that why the Bulldogs are good? Partly. Is it because competition is steeper or because of weakened programs? In this case, the Bulldogs are really good, but weren’t recognized until reaching the grandest stage.
Thus the ultimate goal is to win. Brad Stevens, 33, is a young coach and could be mistaken as a teenager. Yet everyone also knows only one coach has won the national title in his first appearance in the last 10 years. That doesn’t say Stevens becomes the next one to be victimized. If the Bulldogs stick to fundamentals, like containing leads, finding ways to score, and protecting the ball, Stevens will add to a historic resume.
Somehow the Bulldogs survive in the final minutes of a game, never quitting and staying poised. Somehow the Bulldogs wrote another script, hitting just one field goal in the final 12:18, while shooting under 31 percent in the game. This time, they were bailed out as they rose on defense and relied on solid free throw shooting. As we’ve seen recently, Butler scored 20 points off 16 Michigan State turnovers—an abnormal trait out of Tom Izzo’s Spartans.
That’s how badly they missed the star guard and leader Kalin Lucas, who was sidelined with a torn Achilles. On this night, you could’ve predicted the Spartans to win, having a fundamentally sound unit in Durrell Summers, Korie Lucious, and Draymond Green, but the turnovers hurt a chance at redemption after falling short a year ago in the national championship game.
This year, the one shining moment goes to the Butler Bulldogs. Maybe it’s a nice movie after all, with Gordon Hayward leading the Bulldogs with 19 points as sharpshooting guard Shelvin Mack nailed mid-range jump shots and threes.
Mack finished with 14 points, but from his body language you could see he was exhausted and suffering from dehydration. But still he drained critical shots to uplift a miracle. When Hayward started connecting on huge shots, it changed the momentum and gave the Bulldogs a cushion. But no play was bigger than when he flew and sliced by traffic, grabbing his ninth rebound on Lucious’ intentional missed free throw as time expired.
With Matt Howard in foul trouble and Mack dehydrated, Hayward took control and guided the Bulldogs to the biggest game in school history. In an ugly game, Butler took advantage and had its way with the basketball. From poor shooting, to clumsy fouls, to turnovers, they secured the gratifying win at home and celebrated and trotted to the locker room happier than ever.
I deeply believe there’s a movie in the makings.