Posted by Matt Norlander
In sports, it's believed just about anything's possible. That's part of why sports captures our attention; why we watch the games and contests and races and such. You never know what could happen. It could happen. That thing. That remote thing we don't want to think about too much, lest it break our hearts. But, still: happen. Please ... happen?
And I'm not even talking about a long shot winning a title here. I'm talking about Butler getting back to the Final Four, making it there as an eight seed(!). Doing this after losing Gordon Hayward and in a year where it started its Horizon League campaign 6-5 and lost two games to UW-Milwaukee on top of getting defeated by miserable Youngstown State and Evansville. There were other losses in there that now seem like outliers but for so long seemingly signaled a hangover season.
We were drunk for ever doubting Brad Stevens. now Butler's going to Houston. The above paragraph is the root of what unpredictable means. Can you get off your couch right now, walk around your kitchen and wrap your ahead around what a small Indianapolis school has accomplished in the past 12 months? This isn't starting to make any sort of sense, and I love that.
Butler's becoming something very big very fast in college basketball. It cannot be overstated, overemphasized or overblown how impressive it is that Stevens has coached his team to a 9-1 record in its last 10 NCAA tournament games. It's only 10 games, but it's not only 10 games. It's increasingly hard to win in March, yet Stevens looks like he's watching from his neighbor cut the lawn from his window. Kill off the Gonzaga/Mark Few comparisons; those are now an affront to Stevens' reputation.
How many storylines are out there? You can go with the immediate, that Butler finally got revenge for losing at the buzzer in the 5-12 game in 2000 to Florida. There's the lack of Hawyard. And Matt Howard stepping into a huge role this season. And Shelvin Mack. And just how dumb it is that a Horizon League program can get to the Final Four in back-to-back years with an average seed of 6.5 ... and that's barely registering on our radars.
There's also Butler's run and the three awesome games against Old Dominion, Pittsburgh and Florida. It won all three. Wining close, winning in overtime. Butler's way. Or one of the 12 Stevens storylines we'll tackle leading up to the Final Four. One that immediately springs to mind: at the mid-major level, he now has no rival, and he's reached that elevation in a year's time.
There will be thousands upon thousands of words in the next eight days dedicated to Butler's incredible achievement. Let these simply and merely be some of the first. All of it's deserved. All of it unbelievable — a word used more haphazardly than love, but applies here. Both of them do. Because how can you not love Butler?
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