Final Four: Butler’s turn for One Shining Moment?
In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a Butler University graduate. If I happen to put aside my unbiased bracketology hat this weekend, forgive me.
Is it Butler’s turn to embrace the NCAA’s One Shining Moment? That’s the question. A year after watching their national title hopes bounce off the front of the rim at Lucas Oil Stadium, the Bulldogs are back in the Final Four. Butler was supposed to be good this year. But not Final Four good. Yet, the Bulldogs are two wins from a national championship. Again. Last year it was Michigan State, West Virginia and Duke in their way. This time it’s Connecticut, Kentucky, and VCU.
Fate seems to loves this year’s Butler team. Their incredible path to Reliant Stadium is well documented. And if the Bulldogs are in a close game – a common occurrence this past three weeks – will fate simply disappear?
VCU hopes so. Or at least plans to turn Fate in the Rams’ direction. While all four teams converging on Houston’s Reliant Stadium are on incredible streaks, no team is hotter than the Rams. VCU has taken out teams from the Pac-10, Big East, Big 10, ACC, and Big 12, and is the first team to win five games en route to the Final Four. In a contrast of styles, the Rams will try to push the pace and find three-point shooters before Butler can set its defense. Which is why we take a trip back to Washington, DC. Butler vs. Old Dominion. The same Old Dominion team that beat VCU in the CAA conference tournament final. ODU used its strong half-court defense and rebounding to beat the Rams. Butler will use the same recipe. It took an amazing play by Matt Howard to beat Old Dominion. Why not one more amazing finish on Saturday?
So who will Butler play for the title? Kentucky has more talent, Connecticut has Kemba Walker. When the Wildcats and Huskies met in Maui, Walker was a one-man wrecking crew. And UConn has not lost a tournament game since. Not in Maui. Not in New York City. Not in the NCAA’s. And not Saturday night in Houston. In what should be a great game, Kemba makes one more incredible shot. One that sends the Huskies into Monday’s championship game.
A year ago, the stage should have belonged to Butler. They were six miles from home at Lucas Oil Stadium. An overwhelming crowd clearly favored the Bulldogs. And Butler had two shots at immortality. Both incredibly close to going in. But neither did.
This year, there is no home-court advantage. Another mid-major has garnered the headlines. And Butler is no longer just a cute story – the Bulldogs are a bona-fide basketball program – the first Indiana school to ever reach back-to-back Final Fours.
Maybe that’s why it’s Butler’s turn. There’s no incredible setting. No home-court advantage. No sense of wonder. Just an incredible group of winners who are determined to make one change to last year’s heroic story.
Win their final game.