And congratulations to the Butler Bulldogs, who nearly pulled off the upset, when Gordon Hayward’s half court shot bounced off the rim as time expired. It would have been the ‘Cinderella story’ that the national media had been touting for weeks. Though Butler was not quite the true Cinderella story. Butler was the 5th seed in their region, but as I mentioned prior to the Syracuse game, Butler was not properly seeded in the tournament. They finished the regular season ranked 11th in the AP polls and 8th in the ESPN/USA Today poll, thus indicating they were likely a 2 or 3 seed.
In 2003 Syracuse was ranked 11th in the country entering the NCAA tournament with a 24-5 record. Butler finished the regular season 28-4, ranked the same as those 2003 Orangemen. Was Syracuse the Cinderella story in 2003?
Butler has only 3897 undergraduate students. Georgetown has 7092 undergraduate students. Duke University has only 6400 undergraduate students. Seton Hall, 5245 undergrads. Providence College, 3938 undergrads. Notre Dame has 8371 undergrads. Villanova, 6335 undergrads. Wake Forest, 4476 undergrads. Butler is a small school, but it is not that small of a school. This was not a tiny Milan High School (enrollment 161) versus massive Muncie (enrollment 1600).
Butler was a great story in this tournament, and they were a very good team. They were also expected to be a very good team. Butler was ranked highly in both preseason polls, #11 in the AP and #10 in the ESPN/USA Today poll. This was not a team that came out of no where; they were a team that determined to be a team to be reckoned with before the year even began. Syracuse was the team that came out of no where… they would’ve been the true Cinderella story (but of course, Syracuse is a name program, from a major conference).
Now Butler is a Mid Major team, and they did play in the Horizon League. They are ‘small’ because the BCS conferences do not want to recognize them. They were the outsiders, trying to turn over the proverbial apple cart, and show the Mid Majors could play (something we already knew, if we had been paying attention the past few years). 33 year old Butler head coach Brad Stevens is a great story.
As a Syracuse fan, it was upsetting to see Butler advance so far and come so close. Syracuse, despite its sloppy play, and missing its best interior defensive player, came very close to beating the Bulldogs, despite spotting them an 11 point lead. Clearly the Orange could have won it all. But unfortunately they did not.
You know what makes college basketball great? That a school like Butler, had the opportunity to go out onto the court, and over three weekends, had a legitimate chance to win the National Championship. It did not matter what conference they were from, what the national media thought of them. It did not matter that the NCAA committee gave them a raw deal with a lower seed than they should have had. They went out there, and came within a bounce of the ball, winning the national championship. That is something the Boise State’s of the world will never have the opportunity to do in college football. And that is a shame.