The Butler will do it. Yes, I said. It. Tonight, the Butler will do it. The Bulldogs have to do it, right? That’s how this story is supposed to end, right? This is why we love college basketball. Heck, this is why we watch sports. Right? Right!?
Tonight, the Butler Bulldog will play the Duke Blue Devils.
I’ve heard a lot of things about the Butler Bulldogs. I’ve heard that they are the ultimate Cinderella. I’ve heard that they are NOT a Cinderella. I’ve heard that their story is better than Cinderella’s… better than a miracle… better than any story ever… (OK. That was this blog).
But here’s the thing about Butler.
This team is not a Cinderella. This team doesn’t need miracles to win. This team is, well, good. This team may even be great. They’ve won 25 in a row.
They have Gordon Hayward, who could be a first-round pick in this year’s NBA Draft. They have Shelvin Mack, a sophomore who will play for money at some point in his career. And they have Matt Howard, a junior who was the Horizon League player of the year last season, before Hayward took over.
Veteran scribe Joe Posnanski made a similar point yesterday, but he went further. He wrote:
“…This is not really some crazy Hoosiers-type saga, you know, with Gene Hackman teaching kids how to dribble around chairs and Jimmy Chitwood joining the team to save the coach’s job and Ollie making underhand free throws to win a game at the end…”
Of course, if you’re going to make the argument that Butler is not some Hoosiers-type, Cinderella tale, I think you also have to argue that Jimmy Chitwood’s Hickory Huskers weren’t even Cinderellas.
OK, it was a miracle that Hickory High, with 75 boys in the whole school, and a tragic figure at head coach, and a drunk as an assistant coach, did beat the big boys and win the Indiana state championship.
But it wasn’t necessarily a miracle that that team beat everybody. I mean, did you see that team? They could freaking stroke it. And Jimmy Chitwood must’ve been the best player in the state of Indiana. Yes, they didn’t have much height, but they could pass and cut and play defense — and again… they could fill it up from the outside.
This Butler team kind of feels the same way.
Sure, some people probably feel like they’re slighting them by calling them a Cinderella. After all, we’ve seen over and over that this Butler team is one of the best in the country.
But that’s not the miraculous part. The miraculous part is that Butler, a school of 4,200 students, a team that plays in the Horizon League, is even here in the first place.
The miracle is that ex-coaches Barry Collier and Thad Matta built the program into a viable mid-major… and that Todd Lickliter kept on bringing in talented players before bolting for Iowa … and that Brad Stevens, a 30-something with no head coaching experience, took over and molded this talented roster into one of the best teams in the country.
Yes, it is a miracle that Butler is here. And it would be a miracle if they win a national championship.
But for this team, the miracle part is over. They can beat Duke. Yes, they can. And what a story it would be if they did.