Posted on: April 6, 2010 12:28 am
Edited on: April 6, 2010 1:29 am

What Might Have Been


Gordon Hayward (Getty Images)Of All the Words of Mice and Men, the Cruelest Are 'It Might Have Been'

As Gordon Hayward's desperation halfcourt shot banked just a little too hard off the backboard, Kurt Vonnegut's famous phrase from "Cats Cradle" came into my mind.  Right now all over the country, people are praising Coach K and his Duke Blue Devils for their fourth title, putting the coach in rarified air amongst his peers and moving Duke past Kansas into sole possesion of fourth all-time in NCAA titles.  But I don't care about that.  Let the other writers celebrate the winner and crown Coach K the mightiest to ever walk the floor.

I will instead focus on the losers and how close they were to unmatched glory.  Think for just a second what would have happened if Hayward hit his shot.  It would have set in motion a celebration that would have likely never been topped in NCAA Tournament history.  72,000 in attendance would have joined every American who didnt have a personal connection to Duke University in an unadulterated glee ride celebrating the utlimate victory for the little guy.  A small private school in Indiana, filled with players who were not recruited by the big boys and were never considered able to make it this far, had found a perfect ride to the Championship game and in the process, taken down the evil empire of college basketball.  It is such a perfect story that it simply does not seem real.  But the joy that would have emoted from Lucas Oil stadium would have been real and might have been unsurpassed in sports since the 1980 Miracle on Ice. 

Disagree?  Think of a better example of an entire country rallying around a story and celebrating together.  I can't think of one.  In our territorial notion of sports, we celebrate victories over other areas of the country and loyalties are often split based on where you are.  We dont do much in the way of nationalism either and because the main sport in which the world competes against each other (soccer) isn't our bag, we dont get off on beating other countries very often. But this would have been the force of a collective nation, minus a few random Dukies, celebrating at the same time.  How great would that have been?

And that shot!  Had Hayward bankd that shot in, it would have immediately taken its place as the greatest shot in the history of college basketball.  Lorenzon Charles, Christian Laettner, Keith Smart and Michael Jordan would have had to scoot over and make room.  A new king of the mountain would have taken its place.  The circumstances (as the buzzer sounded, from half court, the underdog making it to beat mighty Duke) would have immediately catapulted it into discussion as the GREATEST play in history for any sport.  It would have been on commercials from now into eternity and there would never be a moment when its iconic image would have left the collective sports mind.

And the individuals involved.  It goes without saying that Gordon Hayward's life would have never been the same.  He would become a name that was remembered for generations and it is not an exaggeration to say that his life would have changed forever.  In addition to becoming a hero on Butler's campus for eternity, he would also have become a superstar in the nation as a whole.  He would have owned the Today Show, David Letterman and the White House and from now until the day he died, he would have been remembered as the guy who hit the greatest shot ever. 

And he isnt the only one.  Matt Howard would have been a hero as well, with his points down the stretch and a hard pick on the last play that would have lived forever.  His wispy moustache would have reached cult status and we would have seen middle school kids growing similar facial hair to be like Matt.  Coach Brad Stevens would have been more than just the Coach who looked young and took his team on a magical ride.  He would have been a national champion and on the path to be the greatest young coach in the nation.  His future is bright regardless, but a 33 year old coach who wins a national championship at Butler on the greatest shot in history would have had the world as his oyster.

Alas, none of this happened.  The shot was off just slightly.  Duke won and while college basketball fans will remember Butler, it will be as a part of something great, not something iconic and legendary.  Butler and its players have nothing to hang their heads about. They put together a magical run and were part of a great championship game.  They will forever be able to look back and remember being part of something special and unique.  But that doesnt mean that there won't be moments where Vonnegut's words ring true.  When it comes to a championship, it might have been.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: April 5, 2010 10:30 pm
Edited on: April 5, 2010 10:33 pm

So you're saying there's a chance?

Thomas Beisner

We're just 20 minutes away from crowning the 2010 national champion and, to the surprise of many, the Horizon League representatives are close enough to taste the NCAA approved beverage locker shower, entering the half down 33-32.

A lot of the first half was the same old story for Butler as they got out-shot by their opponent (50% to 34%) and found their best post threat on the bench with fouls.  But, as the Bulldogs have done all tournament, they've pieced together just enough winning pieces to remain within striking distance.  Tonight, it's been team rebounding and 10 big points off the bench from senior Avery Jukes, much to the delight of the home crowd at Lucas Oil Stadium.

For the Devils, it's also been business as usual as their "Big 3" has combined for 26 of their 33 points and Brian "Jersey Muscle" Zoubek is on pace for double-digit rebounds with 5 in the first half.  Lance Thomas found himself in foul trouble early (per the usual) and neither of the Plumlee brothers were able to contribute much in his absence, probably frustrating their father, Plucky.  Plucky Plumlee. 

So, where might the game change?  Well, as in all close games, the free throw line can be the difference between winning and losing and both teams struggled in the first half.  For Butler, only Matt Howard got to the line (1-4) and Duke combined to go 4-9.  That's the stat you look at on Tuesday morning and either bow your head and shake it side-to-side or smile and sigh a sigh of relief. 

It's Butler and Duke and there's 20 minutes left until the end of incredible NCAA tournament and, at the very least, we're guaranteed no more sorry Diddy promos.

Let's do this!
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: April 5, 2010 9:53 am
Edited on: April 5, 2010 9:56 am

Butler Drive Draws Inevitable Movie References


When I look at this 2010 NCAA Tournament Championship, a battle between tourney juggernaut Duke and plucky cinderella Butler, being played only miles from Hinkle Fieldhouse and featuring an underdog group of Indiana basketball players in an unbelievable but inspiring run to the trophy game, I can only think of one memorable film from the eighties to which I can compare the storyline of this exciting matchup.

That movie, of course, is Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors.

In that film, a group of school kids from a small town in midwestern America had all their dreams come to life – but unfortunately, a villain waited in the shadows.  Truly, the Butler Bulldogs are a worthy comparison to the confident kids in that film – Joey, Taryn, Kincaid, Will, Jennifer and Phillip. And just like this likeable team of determined teens at Westin Hill Psychiatric Hospital, they have a protector in Nancy Thompson (Brad Stevens) who realizes there’s a force much powerful than them who will stop at nothing until they are crushed. Nancy (Brad Stevens) also has valuable allies supporting her in Lt. Donald Thompson (Butler assistant coach Terry Johnson) and Dr. Neil Gordon (assistant coach Micah Shrewsberry), who also pinpoint the terrifying force stalking the kids and vow to assist Nancy in any way to help her (him) defeat it.

Nancy, Lt. Thompson and Dr. Gordon realize that the powerful monster Freddy Krueger (Duke University) has come back again from the dead to kill everybody, and he is successful for a while. Joey (Ronald Nored) is paralyzed as Freddy tries to keep him incapacitated, but he is saved by quick thinking from Nancy. Lt. Thompson and Dr. Gordon help Kincaid (Gordon Hayward) fight Freddy in a junkyard (Indianapolis). During a final battle Freddy gets the best of Nancy, but at the last second Kristen (Shelvin Mack) figures out a secret way to destroy Freddy and all the ghosts of all the people (teams) Freddy has killed all come to say thank you and a bright light grows overhead. One shining moment illuminates everyone.

This is how Butler will win. And you shouldn’t question it, because I am an accredited CBS sports writer.

Also, at the end while everyone is happy, a light will suddenly come on in Freddy’s house – meaning maybe he’s not dead and maybe he’ll be back.

But that’s Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (Duke vs. UCLA in a 2011 tournament Elite Eight matchup). And you’ll just have wait for that.


Category: NCAAB
Tags: Butler, Duke
Posted on: April 3, 2010 8:52 pm

Butler to the Finals


Lets be honest.  It was BRUTAL to watch.  And its likely the case that this is one of the worst teams to ever make the Championship game, joining the ranks of 2002 Indiana and 2004 Georgia Tech in history.  But those facts are just the curmudgeon side of me.  The other side, and the one you probably care about much more, recognizes the amazing story that is Butler being one game away from a National Championship.  

This is simply not supposed to happen in college basketball.  In fact, if you search the "modern era" of college basketball (which I define as the movement to 64 teams, creation of the shot clock and the three point line), only three teams from non-BCS conferences have ever made the Championship game.  Two of those teams (1990 UNLV and 2008 Memphis) were legitimate powers, stocked full of NBA stars and potential Hall of Fame coaches.  One team (1998 Utah) was an underdog, but also possessed three NBA players (Andre Miller, Michael Doleac and Hanno Mattola) on its roster.  There simply has not been a team like Butler make it to this point. 

For years, commentators have been crowing about the fact that "one day some team filled with Seniors from a mid-major is going to win it all."  But this Butler team doesnt even meet that definition.  Its best players are Juniors and Sophomores and its coach is 33 years old, the youngest to make a title game since 1940.  It comes out of the Horizon League, but easily could have been eliminated in Round 2, when another minnow (Murray State) had the ball and the chance to win the game on the last possession.  Yes this group is good, but was there any reason to believe THIS could happen?

On Saturday, they defeated Michigan State 52-50 in a game that may have set basketball back to before Butler Coach Brad Stevens was even born.  Both teams played tight, and while they suffocated each other on defense, there were no "step up and make history" plays made down the stretch.  Butler took a seven-point lead early in the second half, watched one of its two best players, Shelvin Mack, go down with cramps and basically gutted its way to a victory by giving out no easy baskets and making defensive stops.  It wasn't glamorous and truth be told, it was unbelievably unentertaining.  But Butler and its fans could care less.  They are playing on house money, doing more with less than any team in the modern NCAA Tournament history.

Whats next?  Well the smart money says that the Butler dream ends in front of its home fans against a vastly more talented and athletic major conference opponent.  But the smart money said Syracuse, Kansas State and Michigan State would end the dream as well and the Bulldogs persevered.  Objectively, if you played the NCAA Tournament 100 more times, it is likely the case that Butler would never get to this point again.  But they dont have to.  They are here now.  They will be the decided underdog on Monday, and if it were a seven game series, defeat would be almost a certainty.  But they dont need to win mulitple games.  They need one win...40 minutes.  That is certainly possible and if the magic can be harnessed one last time, we will see Butler Bulldogs, 2010 National Champion.  Who would have ever imagined? 
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: April 3, 2010 12:52 pm
Edited on: April 3, 2010 12:54 pm

10 Questions for the Final Four


Here we are, just hours away from the Final Four.  We have seen 61 teams fall off the path to the championship and only four remain.  No, Kansas is not one of them.  No, Kentucky lost too.  Yeah, and Syracuse.  It has been crazy.  Anyway, here are 10 questions that are on everyone's minds as the 2010 NCAA Tournament winds down...

Will the Blue Devils find revenge?

#7 West Virginia upset #2 Duke 73-67 in the second round of the 2008 NCAA Tournament.  Duke will certainly have vengeance on its mind tonight.  All five Duke starters played in that '08 West Region game in Washington D.C.  West Virginia's Da'Sean Butler and Joe Mazzulla combined for 21 points in the upset.

Can the Spartans keep rolling without Lucas?

When Kalin Lucas went down with a torn achilles tendon late in the first half of Michigan State's win over Maryland, everyone wrote the Spartans off.  Then Korie Lucious shocked us all with a three-pointer at the buzzer to beat the Terps.  The Spartans then moved on to a win over Kansas Northern Iowa and another late miracle to beat Tennessee in the Elite Eight.

Did you know Butler is only 6.02 miles from Lucas Oil Stadium?

And, did you know Hoosiers was filmed at Butler's Hinkle Field House?  Did you know that?  Of course you did.  And, like me, I'm sure you're tired of hearing about it.

Will Darryl "Truck" Bryant return for West Virginia?

The Mountaineers' point guard broke his foot in practice before the Sweet Sixteen and is dying to get back on the court.  Bryant is listed as "highly unlikely" which basically means "he definitely won't play but it's the Final Four so everything is a storyline."  

Gordon Hayward can't really be that good - can he?

Yes, he can and he is.  I know he doesn't pass the looks test but Gordon Hayward is a future NBA pick.  The Horizon League Player of the Year averaged just under 16 points on the season and has been even more impressive in the tournament.  He scored 22 points in Butler's win over Kansas State and 17 in the win over Syracuse.   Hayward's the real deal.  (Insert Hoosier's reference)

Does anyone outside of Durham like the Blue Devils?

It certainly doesn't seem like it.  Even the Indianapolis Star got in on the hate.  No one can really explain why (other than Coach K's facial expressions and the flopping) but it seems that the entire nation can agree on one thing - everyone despises Duke.  Everyone.

Hey, did you know Butler is only 6.02 miles from Lucas Oil Stadium?

Oh, you did?  Well, it's also where Hoosi... I did?  I said that already?  I'm sorry.  Just making sure you knew that.  Carry on.

Can Huggy Bear finally get his ring?

Love him or hate him, Bob Huggins is one of the best to do it and he finally has the chance to win the grand prize  The Huggy Bear is in his first Final Four since 1992 and he has his alma mater there for the first time since 1959.  It's easy to point out graduation rates, his players' off the court issues, and his classic D.U.I. video with vomit on the driver's side door - but let's not forget that Huggins is a hell of a basketball coach.  Add to the fact that he is facing Coach K, and he is finally that guy we can root for.  Plus his mafia style tracksuits say, "I want to win, but I'm here to party."

Who will win it all?

Many believe the Duke-West Virginia semifinal game is the national championship game.  The Blue Devils and the Mountaineers are undoubtedly the two best teams left and if Dick Vitale had his way, the committee would reseed the Final Four.  While it's certainly not impossible for Butler or Michigan to win it all (never doubt Tom Izzo,) whoever advances between Duke and WV will be feeling good heading into the title game.

Is Jennifer Hudson singing "One Shining Moment?"

Yes she is.  I don't agree with it, either.

Posted on: April 2, 2010 3:15 pm
Edited on: April 2, 2010 3:23 pm

Your Butler coaching mad-lib

Thomas Beisner

Congratulations, Butler fans.  I'm sure you've heard it a million times, but it doesn't get old, does it?  It's a fine time to be a Bulldog and you should be enjoying every second of it.  You're back in your hometown, soaking up the Final Four glory and all the Hoosier references and Dick Vitale impression contests that it comes with.  This is as good as it's ever been to be a Bulldog, which probably has you worried about one thing. 

It's really going to suck when the party ends this weekend, huh?

Well, maybe not.  You see, your trajectory into America's hearts and the elite of college basketball has paired with your Horizon League standing and given you a unique opportunity.  As larger schools approach Brad Stevens for their head coaching job this off-season, your increased program stature means the mix is right to finally create the perfect message board rumor.  At larger schools such as Kentucky or Indiana, where coaching changes have occurred recently, message board rumors have settled in permanently as a part of the fan experience.  At Butler, you might just be getting your first great opportunity.  And, it's an opportunity you don't want to waste.

So, with that in mind, your buddies here at "One Blogging Moment" have put together a coaching mad-lib to help you come up with the perfect Brad Stevens coaching rumor.  Grab a pencil, put on your thinking cap and get cracking.  It's time to hit the message boards hard!


Oh my (Deity)!! Did you hear? It's a done deal. (Favorite coach) is replacing (favorite Brad Stevens nickname) and it's going to be announced (date). I talked to my (nuclear family member)'s (job title)'s cousin, who really knows what is going on. He once (past tense verb) with (favorite prominent Butler figure)'s brother when they were both at (noun). He was the guy who was right about (Butler recruiting fact).

I know all of this is (adjective) too because I heard it from more than one person.  A guy that I used to (verb) with every Tuesday morning overheard a lady who looked like (current Butler player)'s mom in the line at (restaurant at Castleton Square Mall) say that Stevens is heading to (place) to (verb) the team there.  You can't (verb) with that.

Basically, what happened is that (school with open basketball job) approached (internet celebrity) to help recruit Coach Stevens.  Unfortunately for Butler, (internet celebrity), who is a closet (school with open job) fan,  has known Coach for (number) years and has remained close with him since they both attended (event) in (random city).  Using that as leverege, (internet celebrity) approached Coach Stevens when he was (adverb)  just minutes after Butler got (past tense verb) by (Horizon League opponent). They offered him (dollar amount) in addition to (form of transportation), (favorite dessert) and a free membership to (website).

Though the chances of Butler matching were about as likely as a (plural animal) (adverb) out of (body part), Coach Stevens met with Barry Collier and gave him a chance to (verb) the deal.  Collier had a private meeting with boosters, (current Butler player) and Tony Dungy to discuss.  It was a (adjective) exchange because the boosters wanted (coaching figure) and Tony Dungy was lobbying hard for (recovering NFL player). But, in the end, (current Butler player) took the floor and used his (noun) to help everyone see that (new coach) was the one to take Butler to (overused synonym for success).

Before you (verb) out and lose your (body part), you have to understand what a (fictional monster) Stevens was to his players and in the community.  This same person stold me that (favorite Stevens nickname) had a number of run-ins including telling Gordon to go (verb) a (mammal) and making Shelvin Mack do (workout) for an hour while listening to (TLC song) and wearing (article of clothing). I even heard, but I can't confirm it, that (Stevens nickname) even went as far as to (present tense verb) on the bar top of (Indianapolis establishment) at halftime of the (Final Four opponent) game and then (past tense verb) all the way out the front door toward campus.  If he would not have been found by (person with Indiana ties) laying outside of Holcomb Gardens, he might have never made it home. Just think about how (national media member) would have made fun of us then!!!

Anyway, today is a (adjective) day for Butler athletics. With (new coach) taking charge, we are pretty much a lock for (crazy expectations) - especially after he brings (point guard recruit) with him. I heard he has been begging for the job for (length of time) and got on a (mode of transportation) the second Barry Collier called him to travel to Indianapolis. My source even said he even hired (Indiana basketball figure) as an assistant and has demanded to stand at the top of the cheerleader pyramid at every game. (new coach) is going to be (adjective) and I couldn't be more (adjective) about it.

You can (verb) me all you want, but you'll be (adjective) when I am right about this. (media member) knows what I am talking about but is too (adjective) to report it yet.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: April 2, 2010 1:43 pm
Edited on: April 2, 2010 2:08 pm

Say, Who's the Cinderella Team Here?

Tomorrow all eyes will be on Butler as the Bulldogs attempt to be the first true "cinderella" team to ever make the finals of the NCAA Tourney. That's pretty impressive, and you have to hand it to Butler. For several years now they've been creeping around, preparing to make their run; and as the fates would have it, not only are they making their run now, but they're making their run at a time when the championship is perfectly winnable for them.

I agree, it's a great story. How can you not like Butler? It's an extremely likeable program from coaching staff down to the bench players, they've been trying to get over the cusp and into greatness for a few years now, each time punked back down as if they don't belong, and this year they not only offed number two Kansas State, which was no slouch, but also dismissed number one Syracuse. It's no wonder they're the talk of the town.

The problem is, they're playing Michigan State, a team who -- if they hadn't appeared in seven of the last twelve elite eights and six of the last twelve final fours -- would probably qualify to be a cinderella team itself. After all, from not only did the Spartans lose their star player Kalin Lucas in the second round, they also saw injuries to Chris Allen and Delvon Roe. And they have to play Butler practically at home (Butler's campus is a mere six miles from Lucas Oil Stadium). 

It's easy to, from afar, call this is a "big guy versus little guy matchup." But the truth is that Michigan State is a bigger underdog, "pull yourselves up by the bootstraps" story in this Tournament than even Butler. After all, Butler is firing on all cylinders, looking solid and fantastic as they took out the aforementioned Syracuse, Kansas State, former belle of the ball Gonzaga and a not-terrible Vanderbilt. Michigan State, on the other hand, has struggled with almost everyone they've played, from New Mexico State to another cinderella team Northern Iowa. Tom Izzo's master strategies have pulled the Spartans out of the fire throughout this tournament, leaving them bruised and hobbled but with as much heart as any team in this tournament.

Mind you, I'm not saying that it's more shocking that a program like Michigan State's is here than Butler's. Michigan State is a perennial tourney team -- and Butler's the new kid, sure. All I'm saying is that tomorrow you're going to hear a lot about Butler. And you're going to hear a lot of people say they're pulling for Butler by insinuating that Michigan State is some sort of juggernaut this season. But the Spartans are far from a steamroller -- they're dusting themselves off and pressing on as much as anyone. Don't let the historical stats fool you -- Michigan State is fueled by energy and heart this year, defying odds and figuring out as they go along just how to pul together enough to get to the next round. I don't know about you, but that sounds like many of the same qualities we look for in a cinderella team. By that rationale, whoever emerges from tomorrow's game should be the rootable team; both have fought tooth and nail to get here and either would be the underdog versus Duke or West Virginia. So root for Butler or don't, either way you're gonna get a team that's earned it in the final game.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 31, 2010 3:45 pm
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