Butler Basketball: 5 Moments You Should Never Mention to a Butler Fan
Remember the time Gordon Hayward sent that beautiful, high-arcing miracle into the Indianapolis sky that looked as if it was destined to be the greatest shot in college basketball history?
Only for it to just rim out, symbolizing that Butler was just inches away from stealing a national championship from Duke in 2010.
While it was an exciting thrill for the Bulldogs simply to play in the national championship game, the image of Hayward thinking he could have made history on only for his and Bulldog fans' hopes to slip away in an instant is the main snapshot to be taken away from the historic contest.
With all things considered, Butler fans have been spoiled. Not only by their team's continuous success, but the special, dramatic moments are about as rich and plentiful as any reasonable fan could ask for.
Still, with a bevy of triumphs comes a bevy of troughs. And Butler basketball has its share of the former, too. Disagree with me?
Well, you know how Michael Jordan has famously repeated how he has missed 9,000 shots in his career? That's probably about the same amount Butler missed in its national championship bout against Connecticut.
I kid, Bulldog fans. The fact that it even made it to the final game of the college hoops marathon is a remarkable feat simply in itself.
Regardless, here are the five moments in Butler basketball history that you should never mention to one of its fans.
No. 5: Getting Past the Gators
In a hard-fought battle, the Bulldogs ultimately suffered a one-point setback to Florida in what ended up being current athletic director Barry Collier's last game as the head basketball coach.
Fast-forward seven years, and there it is again: Butler vs. Florida. This time in the Sweet 16, both teams considerably more formidable than in their prior bout.
Different circumstances, similar result. Florida steamrolled Butler on its way to a national championship, and it also happened to be then-head coach Todd Lickliter's last game on the Bulldog sideline.
Thank god for 2011, when Butler upset Florida on its way to another Final Four appearance. Still, Florida was viewed as a giant simply too powerful for Butler to outsmart, out-will or out-hustle.
And believe you me...there is nothing on this great green Earth that Butler fans take more pride in than smarts, will, hustle and how adorable their mascots are.
No. 4: Snubbed in 2002
Nothing quite welcomes a school to the Horizon League like being snubbed from the NCAA tournament after a 25-5 record in the regular season.
2001-02 was an interesting year. It's hard to truly call the season a failure, seeing as the Bulldogs won their league in the regular season and lost as many games as you can fit on one hand.
Still, none of it culminated in a trip to the Big Dance, the ultimate measure of success. Looking back on it now, it almost seems silly to oust Butler due to a poor strength of schedule (its schedule was ranked 159th that year) seeing how many giants it has tamed over the past 10 years. But this was a different time in college basketball.
Especially for Butler. Whereas now people are uncertain of whether or not to still consider it a mid-major, about a decade ago, it was the poster child for mid-majors everywhere.
Meaning, of course, that beating other mid-majors wasn't of utter importance to the selection committee. Prove it against power conference schools, and you'll be taken seriously.
Though it can easily be argued that Butler was snubbed from the tournament that year, it taught Lickliter and his staff an important lesson: They started scheduling more big-name opponents in their non-conference schedule, obviously catching the eye of the committee.
Since then, the 'Dawgs have not been muzzled by the selection committee.
No. 3: National Title Game Against Connecticut
The word embarrassing comes to mind.
After another improbable run to the last game of the Dance on the heels of the 2010 run, the 'Dawgs didn't give as inspiring of an effort in the 2011 game against Connecticut as they did against Duke the previous year.
In a game many now believe is the worst national championship game ever, Butler stunk up the joint to the tune of 41 points on 18.8 percent shooting.
What's more, is that Butler didn't even get blown out in this game. It only lost the game by 12, so even a mediocre offensive performance would have clinched a national championship.
The ironic thing is the NCAA tournament runs leading up to these final games are some of the best moments in not only Butler history, but college basketball history as well. These truly were epic runs, and this team had just lost a top-10 pick in Hayward.
That doesn't change the fact that this game, itself, was humiliating. Many fans simply choose to forget it, as it was one of the most forgettable championship games ever.
Still, not exactly a conversation starter on your first date with a Bulldog fanatic.
No. 2: Brad Stevens Leaving for Boston
Upon receiving the 15th text message informing me that Brad Stevens had left Butler to coach the Boston Celtics, I nearly launched my phone in front of a high-speed bus...Mean Girls style.
Always a resilient program, the implications of the move are yet to be truly experienced. And while there is a lot to like about new head coach Brandon Miller, it's not exactly going out on a limb to say that he's probably not going to be as good of a coach as Stevens was.
The roller coaster of emotions that day from Butler fans were far worse than anything I've ever experienced at Six Flags or Cedar Point (coming from a guy who's terrified of heights, for context).
Many were angry and cussing out Stevens; others chose the high road and made sure to be thankful for his monumental contributions to the program.
In my estimation, somewhere in the middle of those two responses would be appropriate. Considering 99 percent of coaches in his shoes would have done the exact same thing, it's hard to blame him. Still, I think hardcore Butler fans are simply lying to themselves if they weren't at least a little angry about the move. Business is business, but it did feel personal.
Regardless, it was a sad day for Butler fans. So please, for the sake of cell phones everywhere: Try to avoid this topic when calling or texting your Bulldog friends.
No.1 :2010 Title Game Against Duke
Yes, it was probably the most painful moment in Butler basketball history. Which is ironic, because it's also the moment most of America finally gave the Bulldogs the credit it deserves as a program.
Just imagine if Hayward's shot went in.
Unfortunately, this is real life, and the half-court shot from the All-American kid, the unlikely story...I could go on. And in real life, the shot missed by centimeters, allowing Duke to capture the national title.
For all intents and purposes, Butler outplayed Duke for 39 minutes in that game. A hypothetical debate in sports commonly arises in terms of different kinds of losses. In this case, it was a bit like this: Is it better to have loved and lost or to have never loved at all?
Translated to college basketball language: Would you rather taste victory only to have it ripped away in an instant, or would you rather have no conceivable chance of winning a game at all?
The former represents the Duke game, and the latter represents the Connecticut game.
To this day, the former tastes more sour than ever.
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