Seeking a NCAA Tournament Cinderella (Part 1)

Brian ACorrespondent IMarch 11, 2008

The Butler Bulldogs are hungry.

The No. 12 Bulldogs wrapped up their regular season with a record of 28-3 by securing a win and an automatic NCAA tournament bid against Cleveland St. in the Horizon League Championship Tuesday night.

Many people, however, are doubtful that the Bulldogs can continue this success into the tournament. While they sport a pretty impressive record, Butler has been perennially deemed the official "underdog" of the NCAA Tournament. 

You'd think being No. 12 in the nation and 28-3 would dispel this notion, but the naysayers are still out there. Butler's supposed quality wins this year have come against the likes of Virginia Tech, Texas Tech, Ohio State, and Florida State. These teams do belong to power conferences, but many claim that beating these teams really is not that big of an accomplishment.

I'd have to agree with the doubters in that regard. Butler seems to be that good team in a small conference that was able to beat mediocre teams of top conferences. 

Does that mean we should immediately eliminate them from out brackets in the first round this upcoming Selection Sunday?

Not by a long shot.

Butler defines "Cinderella". People overlook these sorts of teams all of the time and many of us have lots or incorrect picks on our brackets because of it. 

The main theory of underestimating these teams is easy to spot. Looking at their strength of schedule alone will have many people rolling their eyes towards greener pastures. 

Remember when St. Joseph's was a No. 1 seed in 2004? 

They faced this same type of argument. The Atlantic 10 was not a competitive conference, so instead of focusing on how far they could go, the question centered on what team would knock them out. I know a lot of people thought they could have been the first number one seed to lose to a sixteen seed, others thought that they'd be gone in two rounds or that a team would trounce them in the sweet sixteen. 

Yet, St. Joseph's went all the way to the Elite Eight where they were narrowly beaten by Oklahoma St, losing by only two.

Back to Butler, if the reason above is not compelling enough to get the strength of schedule myth out of your mind perhaps some of these stats might have you looking at this team more favorably.

-6th in the nation in points allowed per game

-3rd in the nation in turnovers per game

-CHEMISTRY (4 Returning Starting Seniors)

-Momentum into the Tourney (Won by 15pts. in Conference Championship)

As you can see, the positives for this team are clearly there. The only weakness that I have consistently seen with them this year has been their rebounding. They have been out-rebounded in all of their three losses. 

Also, this is a team that likes to take most of their shots from the beyond the arc and if they face a tough perimeter defense, that could spell trouble due to their lack of height and experience in the post.

One last thing to remember. In 2003 Butler went into the NCAA Tournament as an  overlooked 12th-seed. They thrived, however, eliminating 5th-seeded Mississippi St. and a 4th-seeded Louisville before going out against 1st-seeded Oklahoma. 

So, it is now at your own peril if you choose to overlook the Bulldogs this year because they're on fire and they're ready to delve deep into the NCAA Tourney.