Posted on: April 3, 2010 4:05 pm
In almost two hours, one of the greatest televised events of 2010 tips off. I am, of course, talking about Get to the Heart: The Barbara Mandrell Story, airing at 6:00 on CMT. There is also, of course, a little game called Michigan State vs. Butler followed by another matchup called Duke vs. West Virginia. Yes, it's Final Four time in America, that beloved moment every division 1 school in the country wishes it could experience right now.
These are games, by and large, which could go either way. It's almost pointless to truly try to project anything that will happen. But just for kicks, let's do a little prognosticating of our own:
Tom Izzo confounded by Butler. Izzo is one of the most resourceful, quick-thinking coaches in NCAA history, a virtual Napoleon of X's and O's. Will he figure out a Butler team that has shifted thus far to make adjustments to beat some of the best teams in the country? This Spartan team hinges on Izzo's mind for unraveling a team's mysteries -- but if Butler can keep switching things up and disallow Izzo to figure out a game plan, the Bulldogs could leave Michigan State confused and spinning its wheels.
West Virginia may not have the magic they did against Kentucky. Part of Kentucky's loss to Huggins' squad was good old-fashioned out-coaching, to be sure, paired with an unwillingness to concede to the number one seed Wildcats. But from the Big East tournament finals magic to a pack of Mountaineers who simply couldn't miss and a bench that had an almost Angels In the Outfield-esque magic in the Elite eight, if all the pieces aren't there tonight, Duke may well walk away with the game.
There will be a lot of people at Lucas Oil Stadium who have never cared about Butler at all this season until this game. Mark it down. If you think all the Indianapolans (Indianapols? Indianapolians?) filling the stands rabidly for the Bulldogs today have been there all along, you're crazy. The biggest bandwagon in the country is parked six miles off Butler's campus right this second.
There will be more hair product in the Duke locker room tonight than an episode of Tabatha's Salon Takeover. The Blue Devils know that to be a winner, you have to look like a winner. That's why every Faux Hawk and front-spike will be in full effect tonight.
Hope you like Hoosiers, 'cause a huge helping of it is going to be crammed right down your throat. You know why. Don't make me tell the story that every sportswriter in the nation has attached himself to over the past week. Yes, we see all the parallels. Please, shut up.
Bob Huggins will continue to dress like your unemployed uncle. There's something to be said for dressing comfortably. And I'm all for that. But if we keep encouraging Huggins to wear whatever he wants, in the finals he's just going to wear an old Iron Maiden tour shirt and some tighty-whities.
The beauty of this thing is that anything can happen. Especially this year, for some reason. So let's get this party started.
Posted on: April 2, 2010 3:15 pm
Edited on: April 2, 2010 3:23 pm
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.
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!!!
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.
Posted on: April 2, 2010 1:43 pm
Edited on: April 2, 2010 2:08 pm
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.
Posted on: March 31, 2010 3:45 pm
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Posted on: March 31, 2010 3:45 pm
Edited on: March 31, 2010 8:23 pm
Depending on who you talk to, the Butler Bulldogs are either the greatest made-for-the-movie-screen-again story of our lives or the most false Cinderella team of all-time. As is the case with most things, the truth is probably somewhere in the middle. But, we're not really into all that honesty and truthfullness here at "One Blogging Moment". We like to exploit things to their fullest potential, which is why I proudly declare the Butler Bulldogs to be "America's Team". If you don't like them, you're a terrorist. And, even worse, if you don't read this post and get to know them, you might as well be taking a massive dump on a special edition Hoosiers Blu-ray. And you know Gene Hackman doesn't deserve that.
Ladies and gentlemen, your Butler Bulldogs!
#5 Ronald Nored, 6-0, G, Sophomore
2009-10 stats: 6.0 ppg, 3.7 apg, 2.9 rpg, 1.8 spg, 41% from the field, 18% from three
Nored, a starter at the point since the day he first stepped on campus (along with classmates Shelvin Mack and Gordon Hayward), improved steadily in each statistical category as a sophomore, though no improvement was more important than his assist-to-turnover ratio, which jumped to 1.82. Unforunately, that is also his three-point percentage (with a decimal moved, of course). But, despite his scoring deficiencies, Brad Stevens counts on his sophomore floor general greatly, playing him in 145 of 160 minutes this tournament. Nored has rewarded his coach with outstanding defense (3.0 spg for the Horizon League co-Defensive Player of the Year) and clutch play (four points and two steals in the final minute against Kansas State). These post-season heroics also make Stevens hopeful that Nored finally has his legs back under him after spending December tracking Santa.
2009-10 stats: 14.2 ppg, 3.1 apg, 3.8 rpg, 1.4 spg 45% from field, 39% from three
Mack, another member of the Bulldogs’ special class of 2008, comes from a town called Lexington, which I believe has a fairly prominent basketball team, and also stormed onto the scene last year as a freshman, averaging 11.9 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.5 assists while starting all 32 games. Mack followed up that breakout season by joining Gordon Hayward on the gold medal-winning U19 Team USA over the summer. This season, Mack has again been the rock in Butler’s backcourt and the guy who got the magic rolling this tournament with 18 second-half points against UTEP propelling them to a comeback win. If you didn’t get familiar with his mom last weekend (get your mind out of the gutter), you’ll get to know her this weekend. She’s Shelvin’s #1 cheerleader and she bleeds that Butler blue.
2009-10 stats: 10.1 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 0.3 apg, 50% from the field, 47
The lone senior in the Bulldog lineup, Veasley does all the elderly things you’d expect. He plays defense and shoots efficiently from the field, though his first injury-free season since his freshman year has him avoiding that Bengay smell. Brad Stevens calls him the Bulldogs’ Shane Battier, which, given Veasley’s smooth head (get your mind out of the gutter) and his placement on the Horizon League All-Defensive team, is a mighty fine compliment. His first name is also a slang term for...umm...well, you know.
2009-10 stats: 15.5 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 1.7 apg, 47% from the field, 30% from three
2009-10 stats: 11.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg
The First Team All-Horizon League center is unquestionably my favorite player left in the entire tournament. Howard is a step too slow it seems and often appears to jump barely high enough for his laces to stop touching the court. But, he goes after people, fouls be damned, and mixes it up inside, exemplifying every white basketball player cliché nearly every time he steps on the court. Plus, he wears a t-shirt and has willingly taken a backseat for the betterment of the team after winning Horizon League Player of the Year last year. They even have “Matt Howard Day” back in Connersville, Indiana. Matt Howard, I love you. Facebook me.
Zach Hahn: Zach Hoff. Zach Hahn. Zach Hoff. Zach Hahn. Zach Hoff. Butler’s sixth man scored a team-high 13 in season opening win over Drake.
Shawn Vanzant: Last name should be two words. Averages 2 points off the bench and plans to live off of his royalties from “End of the Road” forever.
Avery Jukes: And Avery Scores - to the tune of, 2.7 ppg to be exact.
Posted on: March 30, 2010 1:20 pm
Edited on: March 30, 2010 2:47 pm
And then there were four. Four teams from a field of sixty-four (sixty-five counting Winthrop), each having braved the bullets meant for them and emerged a contender for the national championship. Over the past two weeks we've grown to know and follow teams we may have, in some cases, had precious little exposure to before (I'm looking at you, Saint Mary's) or grown more respect toward (nice going, Cornell). But the four that matter now are the Final Four. It's their party from here on out, so let's get to know 'em.
"The Resourceful One"
Michigan State is that friend who saves one-fourth of a meatball sub to eat two hours from now. He's the one who can figure out how to get beer. He's the guy who always has a plan -- and he can get himself out of a squeeze simply by being practical. When things get tough, count on Michigan State to come through just by being smart -- like that time he figured out how to get front row Widespread Panic tickets the day before the show by calling his cousin whose friend was a college radio DJ who knew the band's promoter. He's good people to know and always cool under pressure.
Why Michigan State will win: They'll size up the situation, tweak accordingly, and find a way to get things done.
Why Michigan State won't win: By overthinking things, sometimes the big picture gets lost. Plus, there's that ruptured achilles tendon.
"The Pretty Boy"
Duke's got it all. He's cool. He's charming. He's got great parents. He's been raised well. And he's all the ladies can talk about. Everything seems to go well for him, especially when things look bleak. He's just that kind of guy. His perfectly coiffed hair and dashing good looks make him a favorite of many, though when things aren't going well for him he's quick to complain about it. Good thing, then, that things perpetually seem to go his way.
Why Duke will win: They're arguably the strongest team left, and they haven't even really had a scare yet. They're a tournament team and have a huge shot at the title.
Why Duke won't win: When the cops bust the party, Duke calls dad and then tells on everybody.
"The Quiet Type"
No one ever expects Butler to show up. He always says he's going to, but at the last second goes home instead. Everyone likes Butler, but no one really knows him all that well. He doesn't normally run with this kind of crowd, but fits in well. He keeps a low profile, but get him going and he's the life of the party. He's fun while he's there, but you never know how long he's going to stay, and he's never been to a party this big before. He's either going to flame out with the cool kids or make a lot of new friends.
Why Butler will win: As Butler stays modest and says very little, few realize how much they're capable of accomplishing.
Why Butler won't win: More experienced partiers could drink them under the table.
West Virginia told you it would be here, but you didn't think that slacker could get its act together and get motivated. Now you're eating your words, because West Virginia -- who you really only know in passing because he hangs out in auto shop class all day -- is showing up and he's ready to par-tay. He's a wildchild: funny, unpredictable and probably going to get into a fight before the night's over. Having him at the party makes everyone a little nervous, but he seems alright. For now.
Why West Virginia will win: Things seem to be aligned for them and they're stone cold rollin'.
Why West Virginia won't win: They could go nuts, flame out and lose it. They also won't stop requesting John Denver songs.
Posted on: March 29, 2010 1:38 pm
Edited on: March 30, 2010 12:24 pm
When the NCAA tournament resumes Saturday and coverage continues every waking moment, you're going to see plenty of love shown to the four teams who have overcome poor seeding, easy brackets and point guard injuries from all your "real" media types. What you won't see, though, is any affection thrown toward your "Almost Final Four" who fell just short on Saturday and Sunday. What about at Tennessee where an Elite Eight has never happened or at Kentucky where the Elite Eight might start getting treated like the Final Four after coming heart-breakingly short yet again?
Is it fair that these teams are supposed to be forgotten? Not in a society where participation ribbons will probably replace testing scores one day (not a Derrick Rose joke). So, with that in mind, let's take one last look at the four teams who fell just short of appearing on those corny Final Four banner t-shirts.
What Went Wrong: Tennessee actually didn’t play a bad game. They shot the ball well and held their own on the boards with a very physical Michigan State team. Outside of Scotty Hopspon’s missed free throw-foul combo and the worst half-court shot in NCAA tourney history, Tennessee showed a lot of character in a run to the Elite 8 and a comeback from down 8 points in the second half.
What Really Happened: They tried to mess with The Izzo. And you don’t mess with the Izzo in March.
On the bright side: They made it out of St. Louis without anyone getting arrested, which, according to odds makers at least, is more of an upset than their run to the Elite 8.
Kansas State (West)
What Went Wrong: Kansas State couldn’t hit their free throws and they got out-rebounded by a team that hadn’t out-rebounded a team in the tournament yet. Just like their previous coach, they came in reeking of their last battle with Cincinnati and struggled to keep their legs under them. Kansas State won the battle on Thursday but Xavier won the war on Saturday.
What Really Happened: Furious with how they ousted The Prophet Jimmer Fredette in the second round and the way they’ve glorified a beard that strictly prohibits BYU’s grooming code, Salt Lake City’s BYU alumni group decided to fight back against Kansas State. They turned to former Jeopardy! champ Ken Jennings, a BYU grad and SLC resident, who, not surprisingly, is also an alien. Jennings snuck into the Wildcats’ hotel Friday evening and, just like in Space Jam, sucked all the talent out of Frank Martin’s team while they met for their “One Blogging Moment” reading club. Look for another Jennings run of dominance in the near future, this time on Pros vs. Joes.
On the bright side: They get to leave Salt Lake City and return to civilization Manhattan.
What Went Wrong: Everything. In the back of their minds, Kentucky fans had feared all year that their team might not be mature enough to handle the pressure or that they might not be sound enough from the free throw line or the three-point line. In Syracuse on Saturday, the bottom fell out in the worst possible way as they struggled in every aspect. DeMarcus Cousins, a model citizen most of the year, appeared to lose his cool at points and DeAndre Liggins got T’d up for, well, we still don't know. They shot 4-32 from three and hit only 55% from the free throw stripe. It was just a fundamental beating. And, it was just as Kentucky fans dreaded it would be.
What Really Happened: Kentucky’s freshmen all struggled to maintain the proper focus late in Saturday’s game as concerns over the strength of Russian ruble continued to linger with experts. Is it the right time to enter the job market or is this a sign of greater economic issues to come?
On the bright side: Just over 2.6 million Kentuckians already vacated this game from their memories.
What Went Wrong: Another team that really didn’t play a terrible game. They got decent, if not great, contributions from their big three and locked up Kyle Singler, who shot 0-10. But, Nolan Smith abused the Bears for 29 and it seemed like every three ball was falling for the Devils. Even Andre Dawkins came in and knocked down two big ones in the first half. It was the type of game that you have to just move on from with your head held high, knowing that you’re proud of your effort and that you didn’t get punked out after a Jon Scheyer elbow. Oh, wait….
What Really Happened: This game was decided well before Demond became Tweety or Scott started drawing. Coach K has a pact with the devil, which was agreed upon while he played for him at Army, and ensures that hell must freeze over before Duke stops making Final Fours with rosters that just don’t seem Final Four caliber. It appears the forecast is as blazing as ever.
On the bright side: Unless you’re a Duke fan, there really isn’t one. Sorry.
Posted on: March 27, 2010 6:57 pm
Edited on: March 29, 2010 9:11 am
Brad Stevens and his merry band of Horizon League over-achievers were heading back to Indianapolis tomorrow no matter what. Unlike you at your high school reunion, though, they're still going to be the hottest thing in town thanks to a 63-56 victory over the second-seeded Kansas State Wildcats. After 113 years of playing basketball, the Butler Bulldogs are heading to the Final Four.
And, even better, they're hosting the party.
Thanks mostly to Gordon Hayward and Shelvin Mack combining for 38 points and 16 rebounds, the tiny school that was expected to be a major player next year shut the door on the Big 12 power that had all the right ingredients for a trip to the Final Four this year. In winning their 24th consecutive game, Butler made all the right plays and found themselves in all the right places. Most importantly, they found themselves on the right side of the three super brilliant points made here on "One Blogging Moment" earlier today.
Before the game, we said the contest would be won on the glass and Butler responded by out-rebounding Kansas State, 34-29. We said this game could be lost by the Wildcats at the free throw line and Frank Martin's team shot only 7-14. We also said the game would be won in the back court and Shelvin Mack would need some help from Ronald Nored. Though Nored's four points, 5 assists and 5 rebounds don't look sexy, he scored his points in the final two minutes and got two of his four steals in that same time.
There was already going to be a party next weekend in Indianapolis. But, thanks to the complete effort of the Bulldogs, the Butler is going to be the one hosting the bash.
America, get ready for a throwdown.
***It should also be noted that Indiana Hoosier fans are super-pumped about this. And they also are not the least bit upset that their team has gone 16-46 the past two seasons while former players and commits have found success all over college basketball and other in-state teams have become some of the nation's best squads. Because they are the most compassionate people on the planet. And just flat-out kind hearted people. If the world were only made of Indiana Hoosier fans, it would be a better place.