TIM AJMANI – The Corsair
So the college basketball season is over. March Madness provided us with rare performances, amazing finishes, and an unforgettable 10-0 run to a national championship. No one can tell me (except perhaps UConn fans) that they were rooting against Butler in the title game. For two years in a row, Butler has run its train through the NCAA tournament field into the final. And for two years in a row, that train has ended in defeat.
Butler was the “Cinderella,” as well as the “big” thing in both tournaments. No, not Duke gunning for its second in a row, with the drama of whether Kyrie Irving, a freshman who had missed over 25 games, was going to lead them to the promised land. No, not Richmond, or VCU, the upstarts from the commonwealth of Virginia, who made Richmond “Basketball U” of Virginia. Butler provided the nation with a classic story of underdogs, the cliché David vs. Goliath. The mid-major that could finally break through the barrier of the big six conferences and win a title.
Despite two runs that likely won’t ever be matched by a mid major (don’t tell that to Brad Stevens, Butler head coach), Butler will probably be remembered for its horrible performance two Mondays ago. In quite possibly the worst national championship in NCAA sports, as well as professional sports history, UConn, led by Kemba Walker won an absolutely appalling slugfest. UConn actually trailed at halftime thanks to two ridiculous threes by now-NBA bound Shelvin Mack. 18 percent. Butler shot 18 percent for the entire game. If that’s not looked at as bad, then downright arrogance and stupidity is in play.
Butler’s clunker, as well as UConn’s escape, from embarrassment by winning, shows how much college basketball is down. The best national championship game in recent memory was the Kansas vs. Memphis epic back in 2008, and even that was marred by poor free throw shooting which allowed for a fantastic finish. College basketball, as a whole for the men’s game this season, had no great teams. Any team, literally any team, could have won this year’s tournament. Take the Cinderella’s for example.
Butler escaped probably the second most embarrassment in the tournament, when they survived probably the dumbest two seconds in sports history when they beat Pittsburgh. Then they absolutely get clobbered by Florida’s Vernon Macklin in the semifinals, and escape with some questionable chucking of threes by Florida’s point guards. Finally, they survive the misfortune of could’ve-should’ve Cinderella VCU in the semifinals. Butler’s tournament run proves that the regular season means absolutely nothing in the month of March.
Any team – mid major, perennial power, one time wonder, etc.. – could have won this tournament this year. Many view this as a good thing for the sport, with a bunch of parity providing excitement and intrigue. But this is somewhat ridiculous, especially when considering how many times Butler could’ve lost in the tournament. Butler’s run will go down in history as the most improbable, historic run in the NCAA tournament. But it should go down as two really weird tournament runs that were just really, lighting in a bottle.