There is no greater surprise in college hoops, regarding a talented program where checking in by midnight wasn’t necessary, attaining a date to its first ever Final Four. The Butler Bulldogs, a small school from an inconspicuous conference called the Horizon League, are traveling to its hometown, not to end a magical dream that turned into reality, but keep aspirations alive to compete in the biggest game on the mammoth stage.
Figuratively, it happened in front of a large crowd at Salt Lake City, where the Bulldogs respectively stunned the world as a Cinderella, taken down No. 1 Syracuse. In what is defined as an illusion, should be described as a legit run, stating the balance, poise and fierceness of an elite program.
How can we not express this as a fairytale, written in the month of March, a time sporting maniacs falls in love with the greatest sporting tournament? At first, it was typified as the massive shocker in NCAA tourney history, but if you noticed something abnormal about the Bulldogs, it wasn’t the win over Syracuse. Instead it’s the toughness and parity seen from Butler of late, celebrating with much euphoria and excitement after obliterating thousands of brackets and upsetting believers and high-profile schools. It was silly, not to realize that the Bulldogs had much willpower and toughness to threaten.
That’s exactly why this isn’t a Cinderella, but a school with ferocious fangs and monstrous weapons, observed as unstoppable villains. If you haven’t seen someone in the tourney with optimism, you have now. If you haven’t seen someone in the tourney with parity, you have now. If you haven’t seen someone in the tourney with perseverance, you have now. All those are ingredients that Butler improvises, to win it all. What was a cute fairytale is now a horror story. And what was a Cinderella is now a legit contender.
So this is a resemblance of the real-life team from the great 1986 movie, Milan High. They can make a movie, if the Bulldogs win the Final Four. Imagine Butler becoming the smallest school to win, similar to Milan High winning the Indiana basketball title in 1954, a year before my mother was born, a year my late father served in the military, and yes, a year when gas prices weren’t outrageous. Milan defeated high-ranked teams, just as Butler has sent a statement to all bracketology and college basketball devotees.
Let’s applaud the classy and strongest team in the tourney. At least it seems that way, with what has transpired in the last few days. And suddenly, a feel-good story is a historic story, with the Bulldogs coming from out of nowhere sabotaging and staining aspiration for its previous opponents. Who cares? Just alone, the Bulldogs are worthy of winning national title after winning the most critical game in school history, uplifting sanity within a lackluster program that never experienced much humanity. Waiting for a shining moment to happen, it finally materialized in a 63-56 win over Kansas State in the West Regional final.
For all the triumph it has preserved, this class will always be remembered for their incremental deeds. Such as embarrassing the Orange in the Sweet 16, and finally reaching a gratifying stage in history by outhustling, outrebounding and outplaying a fatigued Kansas State. It’s a flattering and remarkable Hoosiers story, forming an unthinkable dream. The assumption that Butler was fundamentally sound advancing to the Final Four made absolute sense, because of its pundits and firmness. So there you have it, a relentless program riding a 23-game winning streak that extended to 24.
Isn’t this what we prefer to see, a different team?
After all, they exposed much intensity and gusto.
That makes it a heartwarming story as well. And it’s amazing we ignored a basketball team that captivated our curiosity, with its powerful balance and toughness. Sure, the Bulldogs compelled much angry and tears, by annihilating brackets and sending teams home earlier than expected. Of course, it wasn’t their best performance, shooting a mere 37 percent in the first-half, had more turnovers, costly blunders that saved K-State’s lives.
In a shaky contest, the Wildcats were fortune to stay alive and keep it close, but the Bulldogs pulled away several times in the absence of Horizon League Player of the Year Matt Howard, who was limited to four minutes in the half because of foul trouble. But somehow Butler managed to attack the rim, shoot efficiently from beyond the arch outscoring Kansas State’s two star guards Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente.
They were scoreless until the final minutes of the first half, coach Frank Martin stared disgusted and the Bulldogs led 27-16 en route to end of the half. If you believe in miracles, the fifth-seeded Bulldogs earn the privilege to play in the fieldhouse, where “Hoosiers” was filmed. There could be some luck, as the Bulldogs write an unbelievable tale, better than most sporting stories.
This is a great story for America.
Together, they believed in each other, played tough and will attempt glory at home. Once again, Butler’s coach Brad Stevens, the 33-year old who has a baby face and could be mistaken for a 17-year-old. Inside Lucas Oil Stadium, a modern venue, the Bulldogs have a date with Tennessee or Michigan State in the Final Four, where half the range of 4,500 students enrolled will be in attendance.
In a critical contest, Shelvin Mack fired threes, Ronald Nored and Willie Veasley played in-your-face type defense, and Gordon Haywood collected rebounds. Right now, the Bulldogs seem experience, seem emotional, seem dangerous, seem athletic, and seem unbeatable.
By refusing to acknowledge the Bulldogs, was an erroneous mistake.
There’s a wonderful tale being written.