Just was thinking about Saturday’s Final Four games and have decided I will be dreaming about the Butler Bulldogs in my sleep.

As in the possibility of a Horizon League team actually winning a national championship.

No, this isn’t about to digress into one of those forced and very wrong “Hoosiers” comparisons. Anyone who has been paying attention closely to college basketball over the last decade is well aware Butler is no fluke.

Just because Butler’s homecourt (Hinkle Fieldhouse) is best known for being the place where the famous movie was filmed doesn’t mean we turn a program that has made three Sweet 16 appearances in the last eight years into a Cinderella, happy to be in the Final Four motif.

The Bulldogs have won 24 consecutive games heading into Saturday’s national semifinal contest against Michigan State. Good teams get upset all the time in college basketball and Butler hasn’t lost a game since the calendar still said 2009.

Let that sink in for a second, Butler has won two dozen consecutive games over the last three-plus months.

Most people can’t tell you how many teams are in the Horizon League and who they are – yes, even I had to look it up; the answer is 10 and I was only able to name seven of them – so Butler being in the Final Four is like Boise State reaching the Fiesta Bowl. The apple cart hasn’t only been turned upside down, it’s been ravaged and plundered.

The Bulldogs beat both the top-seeded team (Syracuse) and second-seeded team (Kansas State) in their region. They are 32-4 and have two stellar players in sophomore forward Gordon Hayward (the Horizon League Player of the Year) and sophomore guard Shelvin Mack, who had the audacity to pick Butler as his college choice over Kentucky.

Yeah, let that one sink in too – the Lexington, Ky., native could have stayed home and played for the famous Wildcats and instead picked Butler, a private university with just over 4,000 students.

A nice caveat for Butler’s first-ever foray into the Final Four is that the games are in Indianapolis at the new Lucas Oil Stadium, located just more than five miles away from Butler’s campus. The Bulldogs will be the prohibitive favorites of those in attendance when they battle the Spartans (28-8) on Saturday.

Butler’s coach, 33-year-old Brad Stevens, is so young looking he’d get carded trying to enter an 18-and-over club. But he’s a darn good coach with the big question being how long he remains at Butler before some major college comes knocking with a million-dollar-plus offer.

Probably the biggest hurdle for Butler on Saturday is Michigan State’s coach, the great Tom Izzo. This is the Spartans’ sixth Final Four appearance in 12 years – and the second in a row – and there isn’t an overabundance of national champion-caliber talent on the roster. Izzo is a master when it comes to coaching in the NCAA tournament and you know he’s been working overtime to come up with a plan that will end Butler’s run.

Saturday’s other game is Duke (33-5) against West Virginia (31-6). How funny is it that a Final Four matchup between an Atlantic Coast Conference powerhouse program and the best team the Big East has to offer is only the second-most intriguing day of the game?

But that’s what the presence of Butler has done to this year’s Final Four. The Bulldogs are overlooked all the time during the regular season but they are the stars of this year’s national semifinals — the best basketball-viewing day of the year.

And I’m ready to hit the pillow dreaming of scenarios that enable Butler to be playing in Monday’s national championship game.

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Comments
  1. jim pilgram says:

    Finally after 62 games, Cinderella stories and buzzer beating heroics we finally have our final set.. and who in their right mind had Duke vs Butler… man Butler is such a great story but they definitely have their hands full (not that they haven’t done it before).

    This game is a toss-up though the way Butler is playing and if you want a in depth preview and prediction go to: http://www.lionsdenu.com/march-madness-2010-national-championship-preview-prediction-vs-butler/ … I really hope Butler can do it, but its going to be SOOO tough.

    Singler, Scheyer and Smith are so good, they score so many points in Dukes victory.. at one point they had 57 of the Blue Devils 69 points.. Insane, I can’t wait for the madness to begin Monday night but I am not looking forward to it ending… best tourney EVER!

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