I can see it now: Americans who treat March Madness like the Olympics scratching their heads and banging their remotes.
“That Butler team has gotta be somewhere on my television dial.”
/fumbles around the living room
“Marge, do we get….um…truTV? I can’t find Butler. Where is Butler?”
After serving as the National Championship runners-up for the last two seasons, a number of casual fans have become enamored with The Butler Way, which, as far as casual fans go, covers everything the David vs. Goliath to nail-biting drama.
Based on their track record under Brad Stevens, the Bulldogs have become one of the most difficult teams to count out, but reality appears to have caught up to them this season. Don’t hold me to that though.
Tonight, as a five seed, Butler will look to advance to the semifinals of the Horizon League Tournament against Milwaukee. If they lose, a new March Madness Cinderella must emerge for the country to latch on to. The torch will have been passed, at least for this season, to another mid-major tasked with moving us to the edge of our seats.
At 19-13 overall, and 12-7 in conference play, the Bulldogs are an average team in an average conference. If they don’t collect a trophy in four days they won’t be going to the NCAA Tournament, just like the many of mid- to low- major schools across the country desperate to hit gold over the next week and earn a spot in the field of 68.
But while nobody expected this program to contend for a Final Four berth every season, they were still the pre-season conference favorites, and were thought of as an at-large team. At stake is a sixth consecutive trip to the Big Dance, and the only shock this team may be capable of this season is just getting to the Horizon championship game.
While offense has never quite been the reason why they pulled off two miraculous runs, it may be the reason why they have little to no chance at pulling off some sort of three peat…or even making the NCAA Tournament. The Bulldogs are seventh in the conference in scoring, and are near dead last in the country in three-point shooting.
You can’t fault Stevens for his team’s season. College basketball is cyclical, and these are the breaks.
Let’s just hope America understands, and is prepared to pick a new underdog.