Posted by deaconcat08 on April 2, 2010
First of all, sorry about the lack of recent posts on the blog. The thought of this 96-team tournament has sent me into depression withdrawal. Be on the look out for my “64 reasons why the 96 team tournament is the worst idea in American history” entry coming in the next few days. But their is a bright light before the looming apocalypse. And that light comes in the form of the wonderful Butler Bulldogs. I’m sure you’ve read all the mushy, feel-good stuff articles all week, and if you’re tired of hearing about it, then go to a different blog. Because these are the ramblings of the ultimate sports sentimentalist. And there is not a better sentimental storyline then this year’s Butler Bulldogs. Because of that, then I will provide you with the top 5 reasons why you should fall in love with this Butler team.
1. The Milan High School connection- This connection can’t be overstated. Let’s start with the basics: The 1954 Indiana State champion Milan High School team (subject of the movie “Hoosiers”) won their title in Butler’s arena (Hinkle Fieldhouse). The Hoosiers movie was also filmed in Hinkle. In addition, three of Milan’s star players played college basketball at Butler, including Bobby Plump, the real-life Jimmy Chitwood. Plump ended his career at Butler as the team’s all-time leading scorer. He still lives in Indy and owns a restaurant just a few miles from Butler’s campus. When interviewed, Plump went as far as to say that this Butler team reminded him of the ’54 state championship squad, because unlike in ”Hoosiers”, the Milan Indians were actually a preseason title contender (like Butler), based on their trip to the state semis during the previous season. To cap all of this off, the entire Milan team will be reunited at the national semifinals on Saturday to cheer on their Butler Bulldogs!
2. Real Student-Athletes- Butler, may not be Cornell, but it’s still a very good school, and the players are smart (for example: Howard has a 3.77 GPA in finance and Hayward has a 3.31 GPA in computer engineering). Believe it or not, the entire team attended class this whole week before the Final Four. I’m sure some players at other schools don’t attend class during the entire month of March, but this week, just days away from playing in the biggest college sporting event in the world, Howard, Mack, Nored, Haywood, and everyone else went to class. Just like they were normal college kids or something.
3. The Butler players don’t take themselves too seriously- http://tourney.si.com/2010/03/16/butler-is-too-big-yo/. In the day where image and pretentiousness reign supreme in college basketball, I want to know how many final four teams would take part in something as goofy as this.
4. The Ultimate Example of Modesty- I read an article telling me that you could actually find Brad Stevens’ phone number and e-mail address listed in the athletic directory page on Butler’s website. I didn’t believe it, so I went looking for it and this is what I found: http://www.butlersports.com/information/directory/index. Yep, sure enough, Brad Stevens’ e-mail address is just sitting their on that page like he’s an associate professor of computer science or something. I’d venture a guess that less than 10% of Division 1 college basketball assistant coaches have their email and phone numbers listed, much less head coaches. Heck, even little ol’ Wake Forest, doesn’t even publish any of coaches’ contact info in the internal directory available only to school students and faculty. If it isn’t the ultimate example of modesty, that a Final Four coach allows for his email and phone number to be put on the school’s website, then I don’t know what is. And yes, as you might imagine, I sent him fan mail: “Brad, From an ultimate college sports fan who loves feel-good stories, I just wanted to wish you and your team the best of luck this weekend. I’m also hoping that with your school’s Milan High School connections you all will run the picket fence play for the game-winning shot if necessary, lol. Overall though, I just hope you all enjoy this amazing experience.”
4. The Basketball and Tennis Connection- As a basketball/tennis player, I have a personal respect for an athlete that excels in both because their is not many of us out there (not that I really excel at anyone). The two sports are pretty different other than the somewhat similar footwork involved. Nevertheless, Hayward was a legitimate high school tennis recruit as you see here: http://www.tennisrecruiting.net/player.asp?id=158430. In fact, his twin sister plays on the Butler lady’s team. Again, you just don’t hear about stuff like this anymore.
5. Team over Talent- You’ve probably heard a lot about the “Butler Way” this week. For the last 20 years, the program has been built on finding under-recruited kids who played on winning high school teams. They typically find themselves settling for 2-star recruits using this philosophy (Hayward, Howard, and Mack were all 2-stars according to Scout.com). In fact, no one on this team was a top 150 recruit. This should serve as a wake-up call to guys like Coach Cal who think the only way to win to win titles is to stock up on AAU-pampered future NBA stars. No team without at least 2 NBA players has won a national title in the last 40 years. Butler could become the first.
Some have said that if Butler wins this title, it will be the best national championship story since Villanova in 1985. I’d beg to differ. When taking everything into account, I think Butler will actually end up being the most feel-good national champion since the 1966 Texas Western team. Ironically enough, Butler began this championship run by beating Texas Western (now UTEP) in the first round of this tourney. A lot of people thought they’d actually lose that game. Now, they are just 2 games away from being the most satisfying NCAA tournament story in the pre-apocalypse period of college basketball.