Small Step for NCAA, Big Step for Butler

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Small Step for NCAA, Big Step for Butler

Most college basketball fans would not describe the Butler Bulldogs vs. Duke Blue Devils as their dream match-up for the NCAA title game. However, this game was anything but disappointing!.

This match-up speaks to how close these so-called mid-major programs are to the traditional power houses of college basketball.

This game didn’t feature any one-and-done players and also didn’t feature any future NBA superstars.

People like to classify this game as David vs. Goliath; I like to classify it as a sign the times have changed.

What allowed Butler to play such a competitive game? Can Butler make it back to this point in the near future?

Does Butler making it this far legitimize the argument to expand the tournament?

Big Players on Big Days

First Half

Butler center Matt Howard got into early foul trouble, as he often does. Howard’s sub, Avery Jukes, channeled the stroke of Reggie Miller and became the x-factor of the first half.

Jukes had 10 points off the bench. The only thing more unexpected than his first-half performance, might be an announcement that Paris Hilton stopped having sex.

Butler did what West Virginia couldn’t — kept Duke off the offensive glass. The lack of second chance attempts allowed the Bulldogs to keep it close.

Early on, Butler didn’t get much offensive production from their best player, Gordon Hayward. Duke’s big three made shots, but they weren’t on fire from three.

The one-point difference at halftime was more shocking to me than if Id found out “The Most Interesting Man in the World” was gay.

Match the First Half and Raise

Game Stats

Points 59 61
FG Made-Attempted 20-58 (.345) 23-52 (.442)
3P Made-Attempted 6-18 (.333) 5-17 (.294)
FT Made-Attempted 13-18 (.722) 10-16 (.625)
Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 14-35 11-37
Assists 7 12
Turnovers 8 12
Steals 4 5
Blocks 0 7
Fast Break Points 0 0
Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 18 (0/0) 14 (0/0)
Largest Lead 2 6
Game Leaders
Points G. Hayward 12 K. Singler 19
Rebounds G. Hayward 8 B. Zoubek 10
Assists W. Veasley 3 J. Scheyer 5
Steals S. Mack 2 L. Thomas 2

Team Facts

  • The Butler Bulldogs have competed in ten NCAA tournaments
  • The Duke Blue Devils have been with coach Mike Kryzewski since 1980.

“They” Said

  • Duke-Butler NCAA Final Generates Highest TV Rating Since 2005
  • Butler Looks Like Tournament Fave for 2011
  • No Regrets for Hayward

Upcoming Events

The editor might be happy basketball season is over, but if you want more be sure to come back for our off-season coverage on up-and-comers, training, and more.

Second Half

This was the absolute definition of “team basketball” by both squads.  The second half was even better than the first, players sprawling on the floor, clean hard fouls, and clutch shots from both sides.

Butler could have backed down to the bigger, more athletic team, but these “Dogs” have a lot of fight in them. Every time Duke took a five- or six-point lead, the Bulldogs crawled back in.

It was like watching Rocky fight the Russian, but in real life, Rocky comes up a little short.  Let’s face it, if Rocky really fought a guy that big, he would have gotten beaten worse than Rodney King.

It almost felt like a last-second desperation heave from Hayward was destined to go in. Both of these teams faced questions of doubt within the last month, and both of them answered all the doubters with a performance like this.

Yes, Duke was worthy of a No. 1 seed. Yes, Butler was worthy of playing for a National Championship.

Both teams went all-in and Duke had the slightly better hand. The 2010 NCAA Championship between these two teams will be remembered as one of the great finals in NCAA history.

What About an Encore

The big question heading into next season will be, can they perform at this level again?

Easily they can. All four of their cornerstones are back — Mack, Hayward, Howard and Ronald Nored. Butler will win the Horizon Conference again and probably be over-seeded in the tournament based on this year’s performance.

Coach Brad Stevens seems to be a great leader and connects well with all of the players. Hopefully, Butler rewards his success with financial compensation so he doesn’t feel pressure to take the money (I know he’ll be offered).

After the game, Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski gave Stevens some advice about what to do when the offers start rolling in. “I would tell him to stay put. They also should pay him more,” said Krzyzewski.

Going to the NCAA Tournament is like dating. The past two years they have gone to second base. This year they got her home but couldn’t finish; maybe next year they’ll close the deal.

Don’t Tarnish what was Built

The NCAA Tournament Committee should listen up; what Butler did this season doesn’t prove that all mid-major programs have a shot in the tourney.

Butler has worked hard to build their program to where it is and other mid-majors should strive to get to their level.

By expanding March Madness, you make it less difficult to get in. If these extra 32 teams are added, they can only really achieve something by winning a game and getting into the top 64. Even then, they had to play in; they weren’t rewarded for great play in their regular season.

You wouldn’t put a mini skirt on a church girl; please don’t cheapen the tournament for money. If this were the last year for a 65 team bracket, they went out on one hell of a note.

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