Here's the deal people: Butler is here to stay! I have been a Bulldogs fan my whole life with season tickets for the past seven years.
One thing needs to be known by the rest of the country: Hayward was not the savior of this squad. Sure, he had the big steal in the second round against Murray State, but he didn't "make this team."
What made this team was something that has been synonymous with Bulldogs basketball since the days of Coach Tony Hinkle. That is The Butler Way, meaning you don't need to have a McDonald's All-American recruiting class to make it to the NCAA Championship.
Butler had arguably the toughest road in the NCAA Tournament, and in fact, most people had them losing in the first round to UTEP. Not me! Sure, I didn't think they would make it back home, but the little fan inside me kept the hope alive. I sat 15 rows from the court and witnessed the nail-biting finish to the State game in the final four, the 70,000 strong that went crazy when Ronald Nored secured the game winning rebound.
And yes, I was there when two game winners turned into daggers in the heart of the Butler Faithful, and they came up just three inches short of Gold. Hayward didn't do all that alone, the Butler Way did all that. So he declared for the draft; So what?!?!?!
They still have Matt Howard (who wasn't 100 percent in the National Championship) returning as a Senior, Zach Hahn and Shawn Vanzant returning as seniors, Shelvin Mack and Ronald Nored returning as Juniors, and Andrew Smith returning as a sophomore.
Plus two great local recruits, and one All-Star power forward from Florida. This Butler squad hasn't lost any heart and determination that they had last season, they are hungry for a championship.
So when filling out your brackets next year, make sure you check Butler's schedule, because if a winning streak is going, a run will be made. Make the preparations now people, this is no Cinderella Story or a George Mason fairy tale, The Butler Way is here to stay.
~James Cook Future Associated Press