INDIANAPOLIS -- At this point, the random logic of the heart is far ahead of the reasoning of raw numbers. Of course
a little private school with non-scholarship football can beat a mammoth sports machine that spends almost as much on men's basketball ($9 million) as it does on all sports ($11 million). Duh.
A total of 595 games have been played on neutral courts this season, and it makes perfect sense that the third-lowest
shooting percentage among winners of those contests (30.6) would happen in the Final Four, in front of 70,000 people and a worldwide viewing audience. After three weeks of this Bulldog madness, crazy really is the new sane.
Once your mind is softened by general distrust of hard statistical facts, perhaps you're ready for things like a head coach who's won 35 NCAA games and a National Championship restrained by his own players from physically attacking a referee... because the mid-major team is getting all the calls. Or accepting a reality in which a team from the Horizon League
shows King Balls four times bigger than those of a Big Ten squad. You might even start believing in crazy things like "fate."
You might even forget those times before, when your team was in that same position -- but found fate cruel. Your team didn't get the calls, lost its composure, or didn't have what it took to overcome mistakes and shortcomings to win the day. But knowing that it's actually possible to break through, that beating the odds is not as impossible as it might have felt, can be a powerful balm for old wounds. Imagine if just a few of these had actually happened, how different things would be.
What Butler is doing is bringing retroactive inspiration to all the teams that had to play 5-against-8, and had those last few possessions go the other way instead. You could say the Bulldogs are settling a lot of old family business.
Tonight on Twitter, after Butler had defeated Michigan State 52-50
in the National Semifinal, I tried to take a moment and pay tribute to all the teams over the course of the six-year Mid-Majority era that had their dreams smashed by the Spartans.
This is for Vermont 2005, overwhelmed by MSU in the 2nd round. It was Game 100 of the 100GP. It was where the story ended, the first time we said "It always ends in a loss."
It's for Temple 2008, taken out by a big first half run. It's for Robert Morris 2009, which tried so hard but didn't have enough. I was there.
It's for New Mexico State 2010, which beat MSU by the rules but not in the eyes of the refs. Each call that went against Sparty tonight was payback for that.
It's for Northern Iowa, up by seven at halftime and down by seven at the end. Every mid-major dream crushed by Michigan State is now avenged.
We're all in this together, Hoops Nation... Butler is making so many wrong things right, I can't even count them all anymore.
Then, spontaneously, a lot of people came forward to thank the Bulldogs for what they've done for all the forgotten mid-majors of the past, all the small schools
: that did
have the chance to get here... but didn't.
@gmoore21566:: It's for Davidson a three away from beating Kansas in the Elite Eight in 08. #thanksdawgs
@judasdac: It's for 2003 Kent State and 2008 Davidson teams that went down swinging a game short of Final Four #thanksdawgs
@laplanck: And Xavier in '07, who played 5-on-8 against Ohio State when Greg Oden wasn't called for an intentional foul. #thanksdawgs
@TypoDC: It's for the 1966 Hilltoppers, who didn't quite get to play Kentucky. (Michigan...) #thanksdawgs
@jeffshelman: What about Tulsa in 99. Losing to Carolina in the regional finals. #thanksdawgs
@KraigW: For the 2003 #15 seeded USU Aggies who missed a game tying 3 at the end of regulation against the national runner-up Kansas. #thanksdawgs
@charles_star: It is for 2004 St. Joseph's who took "undeserved" No. 1 seed to the Elite Eight before falling to Oklahoma State. #thanksdawgs
@JFTanner: It's for 1997 Chattanooga, which stunned Tubby Smith's Georgia and then Illinois before coming up short to Providence in S16. #thanksdawgs
@jskarp: And how about Xavier's 1st big run in '04, derailed by 3 points by Duke? #thanksdawgs
@thejccw: It's for 2003 UNC-Wilmington, who gets their hearts broken by Maryland all over again every time that damn phone ad comes on #thanksdawgs
@jllanclos: It's for 2000 Louisiana, who beat Tenessee 5-on-5 but couldn't survive an 8-on-5 barrage at the end #thanksdawgs
@uiwildthing: It's for Coppin State who lost by 1 to Texas to almost make the Sweet 16 in 1997 #thanksdawgs
@NUHF: Can we go in the wayback to 1986 when Northeastern played 8 on 5 against Oklahoma and lost by 6? #thanksdawgs
@countdowntomarch: It's for Albany and East Tennessee State, 16-over-1 upsets for 35-37 minutes apiece in the last few years. #thanksdawgs
@JohnWillmott: it's for 2008 belmont, who came up one possession short of knocking off hated duke #thanksdawgs
@tomburnett2: Don't forget about the '79 Magic-led team that bounced Lamar out of the second round! Old SLC wounds linger! #thanksdawgs
@jtannenwald: If people are going back to '79, what about the team MSU beat in the nat'l semis... Penn. #thanksdawgs
@raphiellej: What about the 1998 Rhode Island Rams? Lost a heartbreaker to Stanford in the Elite 8. #thanksdawgs
@jscottfitzwater: In honor of today's documentary, Loyola Marymount and the championship run that should have been. #thanksdawgs
@mjpettinato: It's for the 16th-seeded 1996 Western Carolina Catamounts, who came up just short of taking down #1 Purdue. #thanksdawgs
@TheSplenda: This one was for Eric Jackson's 15-footer that barely missed when #1 Purdue held off #16 UWGB 49-48 in 1995. #thanksdawgs
@mariobc8: It's for Butler 2000 that lost to Florida on a last second layup. #thanksdawgs
@rickgregg: It's for the 2007 SIU Salukis, who darn near knocked off Kansas to go to the Elite 8, hurt by a missed 35-second violation. #thanksdawgs
@maxwasserman: It's for Xavier, who always play hard yet always fell short, in 09 S16 to Pitt, 07 R2 to OSU in OT, and 04 E8 to Duke. #thanksdawgs