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Hop's Heresy: Butler just a ‘great team’ going for broke

April 4, 2011

HOWARD INTENSE — Butler's Matt Howard looks for the open man in a recent NCAA game. Howard hopes to have the last shot in tonight's championship game. (Palladium-Item Photo)

    It only took a few minutes following UConn's win over Kentucky Saturday night for the talking heads, the experts on college basketball, to cast away Butler's incredible two-year run for the NCAA championship.
    All six "experts" were quick to ring out "UConn" because of their overwhelming talent advantage. They're just too tough for the boys from Indy. In fact, I hear a lot of resentment from the talk show hosts because Butler and VCU, mid-majors, ruined the Final Four party.
    These guys are something else. It almost looks like they have a stake in upholding the virtues of big time college basketball. Of course, it could be a human thing where guys like Dick Vitale and Jay Bilas are just too close to the coaching elite. They sure are quick to drop names.
    Bilas is the guy that I can't get. Just after the NCAA pairings came out, Bilas says that Virginia Commonwealth doesn't deserve to be in the tourney. The committee picking VCU on what was virtually a play-in game "didn't pass the laugh test."
    The funny part about that was that Bilas refused to back down, sticking to his theory evan after VCU rampaged through the tourney, knocking off big boys from five conferences. The VCU performances "doesn't prove anything, only that they are playing well now."
    What an idiot. Obviously, VCU proved that they belonged, and the convincing win over Purdue was just the start.
    All Butler has done is battle their tails off and try to make last play of the game in order to win. Saturday's win over VCU, when the Bulldogs hit just 33 percent from the field, is a testimony to their toughness and never-quit attitude.
    People that know little about basketball enjoy watching Butler because they play the game as a team, and they are ferocious, never conceding a rebound. Matt Howard doesn't look pretty, but he always is in the eye of the storm at the end, and he's not afraid to go for that winning shot.
    Butler's two-year run is unprecedented, at least in the post-UCLA era, and especially considering they don't have two or three of the best players in the county, like coach Wooden did. It's no accident that the Bulldogs are winning. Ten tourney wins in two years is proof of that.
    Surely, someone could have gone out on a limb and picked Butler.
    On stat that I haven't heard the experts talk about is the roster. Butler has 10 players from Indiana, including Grant Leiendecker from Homestead. UConn has two players from Germany, one from Nigeria, and three from Connecticut.
    Shelvin Mack, who may be the MVP of the tourney, is from Lexington, not that far from Indiana. Howard is from Connersville. Super sub Zach Hahn is from New Castle.
    Butler wasn't on my original list to get to this game, but I'm taking them tonight, of course, in a close one, 77-76.

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