The clock struck midnight for the Butler Bulldogs Monday, as the Duke Blue Devils were able to pull out a 61-59 victory in the NCAA men's basketball national championship game.
Or has it?
I'm probably one of the world's most ardent Duke haters, and I'm not even a North Carolina fan. I still have to hand it to a group of good basketball players who toughed out one of the greatest games we've ever seen.
But to be honest, the Butler Bulldogs may have been the true winners of this tournament in the long run.
Here's a look at some factors to consider.
Butler has already been recruiting well for the past decade, bringing in quality teams left and right. They have been doing quite well within the state of Indiana, bringing in the likes of Gordon Hayward and Matt Howard. They've even done better than Indiana the past few years.
But this game, this EXPOSURE, takes that base to a whole new level.
How good will this look on a pamphlet or in a living room chat for Brad Stevens in the future: runner-up for national championship, top-10 preseason ranking, young talent base, play in one of the most historic arenas in the NCAA with Hinkle Fieldhouse, great student body, and a (possibly) growing athletic budget for facilities and travel. That would probably attract me.
2) Gordon Hayward, Matt Howard, and Shelvin Mack
These guys have tasted victory. They were only three points away from winning the national championship. They're going to be hungrier than ever.
This leaves me to believe that none of these guys will be taking early leave to begin their NBA careers. Howard probably won't even get to play in the NBA. Hayward and Mack are rising stars that have bright futures.
The wisest thing for these kids to do is STAY IN SCHOOL. These three have one more year together, and with the talent that Butler has on the bench getting ready to replace the seniors of the squad, Butler should be in competition for another title next year.
P.S. It took Milan two years to win one too.
3) Brad Stevens
He's the hottest commodity on the market. Every power six school in need of a coach will want him. He's a great recruiter and leader on the floor.
That's exactly why Butler is the place for him. Stevens is good enough to coach anywhere he wants, but he doesn't have to. His recruiting skills will now be used to appeal to big-name recruits across the country, not just in Indiana.
More than anything, we could be seeing the rise of a future great here. Stevens has the basketball intelligence, personality, recruiting ability, and leadership to lead Butler into the future.
You may ask how the Gonzaga Bulldogs have any correlation with the rise of Butler. Well, here it is: Gonzaga has been there, done that already.
You can see many similarities between the two programs' rises. Gonzaga went into a tournament, had a boatload of success, began to recruit, and have become a power program outside of the power six. Butler can do the same thing.
Something else Gonzaga's rise did? It shaped up the West Coast Conference. The WCC is not a power six conference, so a lot of people didn't take it very seriously. But after Gonzaga rose to prominence, the rest of the WCC had catching up to do. They had to work harder and find new recruiting grounds to compete.
The result has been St. Mary's reaching the Sweet 16 this season and probably having more success in the future.
The same will apply to the Horizon League. Wright State is already a respectable team, and Cleveland State has been good in the past. With Butler suddenly rising to prominence, could we see a repeat of the Gonzaga situation? Not only is it possible, I believe it's going to happen.
As we look back in five to 10 years, we will see a new landscape in the NCAA. New powers will have risen, and powers rising now will have established themselves. Could we see Butler being not only a champion, but a repeat champion?
Stranger things have happened.