Conn the Butler Do It One Last Time?
At this point we have run out of superlatives to describe what the Butler Bulldogs have done the last two seasons. To me they are more wicked stepsister and less Cinderella. Even though the name across their jersey says Butler, if it read Indiana no one would question it. VCU was a true Cinderella that got red hot and crashed the ball. The clock struck midnight for the Rams when they ran into a more poised, experienced, and physical team in……….Butler???
Of course everything begins with the wunderkind, Brad Stevens. At just 34 and already in his fourth season in Indianapolis, Stevens is the architect of a program that looks a lot more like the Duke Blue Devils than the Cleveland State Vikings. They are tenacious on the defensive end, always look for the best shot, and never lose their composure. That description fits any one of Mike Krzyzewski’s wildly successful Duke Blue Devils teams.
There is an old saying in sports that goes, ‘once is a fluke, twice is a trend, and three times is a pattern.’ Two straight national championship game appearances later and the Bulldogs are trending towards being a national power. They’ve shown they can slug it out with teams like Old Dominion and Pittsburgh, and run with uptempo teams like Florida and VCU. Some may accuse me of being a prisoner of the moment, but as long as Brad Stevens is pacing the sidelines at venerable Hinkle Fieldhouse the Butler Bulldogs can never be counted out of any game they play.
For the second straight year Butler will face a traditional power in UCONN. The Huskie blood may not be as blue as Kentucky, UCLA, Kansas, or UNC, but Jim Calhoun’s teams don’t ever back down from anyone. Like Calhoun’s previous two championship teams these Huskies are deep and talented. Since that Tuesday morning at Madison Square Garden in mid March Kemba Walker has elevated his game to a superhuman level. Freshman Jeremy Lamb has played great in the tournament, and UCONN has some size and length down low.
Despite another apparent mismatch on paper, I have no real convictions about who will win tonight’s game. Pittsburgh, Florida, and to a lesser degree VCU were thought to be too physical or athletic for Butler and we know how that turned out. If I was forced to make a pick I would go with UCONN, but I won’t be surprised if this game comes down to the final possession.