Well, before we start with tonight’s national championship game, I suppose I should mention the results of the 3-Putt Territory NCAA Pool. For the second, shameful year in a row, the outcome of the National Title Game will not factor into who wins our pool. Have to admit that takes some of the fun out of it, but my fun is usually sapped by opening Friday. The final results are…(Gus, send your gift card request to my email, expect 4 to 6 weeks for delivery.)
- Only Watch for Gus Johnson–100 points
- Moonlight Graham — 82 points
- JNix– 79 points
- Fred Couples — 76 points
- Rand — 73 points
Ok, so the game. This game feels like a lock for Connecticut. We’ve been here before. Yogi Berra once said something about situations like this. It’d be hard to argue that Butler has a better chance this year without their NBA prospect Gordon Heyward, but I think that probably is the case. The complete lack of any dominant team in college basketball means the big names are far more vulnerable, whether you have your own stars or not. And, Butler has guys playing well, which for tonight will be all that matters. UConn is riding this incredible streak, though, and it feels about as close to destiny as you can get for a team coached by the often loathed, Jim Calhoun. They’ve now run off 10 straight tournament wins.
The only reason I am going to write what I am about to write is that I am fairly certain that no Butler reads this blog. If they did, I wouldn’t risk the jinx, but I think Butler wins this game. You can take your 3 points (seems a bit low, doesn’t it?) and put them in your pocket. This is the year it is all going to come together for the underdog. We’re due. It’s going to be a program defining win for Butler and something they’ll be trading off of…possibly forever.
It’s quite a phenomenon in sports when the little guy wins something. It kicks off an incredible grace period and a period of misconception by your casual fan. It’s kind of like how Villanova became a perpetual tournament sleeper after 1985. I don’t remember them having any real success after that for a long time, but you’d always hear about Rollie having the boys ready to sneak up on someone in the big dance.
The same thing happened to the scout who found Fernando Valenzuela. This is a story that kicks around the baseball world. It’s a pretty standard tale, the scout looking for the one great prospect in the nowhere town…they’ve made multiple movies about it. But anyway, the Dodgers had this guy Mike Brito who scouted the Mexican leagues. He pretty much fell ass backwards into Valenzuela, but after that signing and Fernando-mania, the guy became a star. He was most recognized scout in the league. He was an instant expert on all Mexican and Latin American players. It didn’t matter if he ever found another player (and some people would probably say he didn’t) he was always the guy who found Fernando.
I’m sure you could think of other examples. I’m sure Matt Stairs will achieve a minute version of that in Philly for his NLCS home run. He’ll always be that guy, regardless of his pedestrian career. For Butler and Brad Stevens a win would have an incredible impact on how the program and the coach are perceived for maybe the next decade (two decades?). It’s reasonable to think that Butler will suffer a drop off here in the near future. They are still Butler, and no one can go to the Final Four every year. I wouldn’t be surprised if Butler isn’t in the tournament in a couple of years, but if they cut the nets tonight, it will always be, “Remember that 2011 Butler team?”
People will be picking Butler as a sleeper in their pools 10 years from now because of tonight if they win. Brad Stevens will forever have a reputation as a tournament assassin if they win tonight. It doesn’t matter what happens next. He could go to the Big-10, totally fail, and end up back in the Horizon League, but he’ll always have that one thing to point to. It’s a lot of pressure when you think about it. I have a feeling the Bulldogs might get it done tonight.
Quiz of the Day: Countries By Cuisine. Category: You ate what, now? My Score: 14/23.
Talk about not my specialty. I think I’ve had about 3 things on this list, and they might all be alcohol. All you cultured aristocrats should best me on this one.