Clock Strikes Midnight for Butler Bulldogs, the Cinderella of the Tourney
All week, nearly every sports writer and fan invoked the movie Hoosiers when talking about the 2010 NCAA Men’s basketball championship game.
Butler was the small school no one gave a chance to be in the championship game.
The only problem is that real life normally does not play out like a movie.
Right after this game ended, the first thought that came to mind were the lines by Morgan Freeman in the Shawshank Redemption. Everyone who has seen the movie knows the scene to which I am referring.
If this game was like a movie, it would be like the Empire defeating the rebels in Return of the Jedi or the terrorists winning over John McClane in any of the Die Hard movies.
Duke, the evil empire in most people’s minds, pulled off what amounted to the two examples above.
Butler was, without question, the sentimental favorite heading into this game.
The Bulldogs are a small hometown school from Indianapolis, Ind., and they play their home games in the same gym the movie Hoosiers was shot (Hinkle Field House).
After a magical run through the tournament, the Bulldogs could not finish in the title game. A victory would have given Butler legendary status alongside North Carolina State.
Butler was a team that played tough defense and found a way to score points.
Much like their counterparts, the Bulldogs had their own Big Three with Gordon Heyward, Matt Howard, and Sheldon Mack.
A baby-faced 33-year-old coach Brad Stevens, who once was in marketing with a pharmaceutical company, found a way to go further in the Big Dance than any mid-major had gone before.
After watching the title game, there is no question that the Bulldogs were just plain good and not just lucky.
Some thought that Butler got lucky beating Syracuse and Michigan State who were missing very good players due to injury. Factor in the fact that Kansas State had played two overtimes the game before they played the Bulldogs.
Most counted the Bulldogs out before the tournament even began as the prevailing thought was that UTEP would oust Butler in their opening-round game.
The good news for Stevens and the Bulldogs is that four of five starters will be back next season, and three of the four players that came off the bench, will return for 2011.
But to the victors go the spoils, and this tournament is now all about the Duke Blue Devils.
In their first Final Four since 2004, Duke made the most of it.
This Blue Devils team is in no way the most talented that has cut down the nets. However, it could be the most defensive, hustling, and unselfish Duke team in the history of the school.
Everyone knows about the Big Three of Jon Scheyer, Nolan Smith, and Kyle Singler, but the role-players helped deliver this title for the Blue Devils.
Role-players like Brian Zoubek, the Plumlees (Miles and Mason), Lance Thomas, and Andre Dawkins helped this team with sound defense, rebounding, and scoring when needed.
This is the first championship won by Duke since 2001 and the fourth title overall for the school. The one constant for the Blue Devils over the four titles has been legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski.
Nearly two years after leading Team USA to an Olympic title, Coach K has reached the mountaintop once more as the head coach at the school he has coached for 30 years.
With the victory over Butler giving him his fourth title, only the great John Wooden has more NCAA basketball championships than Krzyzewski.
Coach K also has the most victories in the tournament and the best winning percentage in the Big Dance as well.
It has been nine years since Duke last won a title. In that time Maryland, Syracuse, Connecticut, North Carolina, Florida twice, and Kansas have all won titles.
Only UCLA and Kentucky have gone longer than Duke since winning a title.
The Bruins last won in 1995 and the Wildcats last won in 1998.
This year’s tournament has shown that mid-majors can compete and beat teams from the bigger conferences.
The SEC, ACC, Big East, Big-12, and Big Ten all suffered at the hands of schools from smaller conferences.
Northern Iowa, Ohio, Cornell, St. Mary’s, and of course Butler, all did their smaller conferences proud with their play in this tournament. Even Old Dominion, New Mexico, Xavier, and BYU advanced to at least the second round.
With the victory by Duke, there will be more than one story written by those with sour grapes or by haters. No team in college basketball is as hated as the Blue Devils are.
The first thing most will read about is the fact that Duke did not deserve a No. 1 seed. The Blue Devils had no control over where the selection committee placed them.
That renders that argument invalid since Duke and Coach K had no say in which region and seed they would be placed.
Next thing most people with a beef against the Blue Devils will say is that they had an easy route to the finals.
The only thing that is for certain is that the Blue Devils beat every team they had to face. Every team in the tournament knew that no matter what they would have to win six games to become a champion.
All 64 teams, regardless of region or seeding, would have to win the same amount of games to win the championship, except for the winner of the play-in game.
It did not matter who was thought to have the easiest path to a title, it was an even playing field for just about all the contestants.
Duke had no hand in Georgetown, Kansas, Syracuse, Kentucky, and more being upset in the tournament. The Blue Devils took care of their business, while these teams did not handle their business and were bounced from the tournament.
One may hate the Blue Devils for whatever reason, but one should not try to degrade their championship. Duke took on all its opponents and the found a way to beat them.
Butler showed the country that mid-majors are very good basketball programs and that they can win at the highest levels against the best teams.
The Bulldogs were just like Cinderella and the clock struck midnight for them.
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