SAN ANTONIO -- A single basketball play is made up of two opposing strategies hatched by two opposing coaches, ten free-agent entities of varying skill and experience levels who can choose to fall in with the chosen plan or not, hundreds of in-the-moment decision points by players and game officials, thousands of twitching muscle fibers. All of these elements combine to form a result: a score or a stop. Multiply those factors by about 130, and you have an average regulation game. Extrapolate that out 30 times, a season. Millions and millions of booleans and binaries, a superblast of tiny moments that add up to college basketball as we know it.
Some of these moments are more important than others.
Much if not most of college basketball analysis concerns itself with why these moments happen one way, and don't follow one of the myriad other possibility paths. The real reasons are staggeringly complex and scientific, and require the breakdown of countless synapse-cracks and movements and counter-movements into a simple word count. Not easy. Especially because spaces in between understanding and reality are filled with relative intangibles, like senior leadership and coaching acumen, confidence and "magic."
Some people struggle to quantify these nonquantifiables. So they find or create their own. "Luck" and "curses" don't create themselves. For instance, there's this meme.
That's not a cause-and-effect pattern, that's a pair of glasses.
This is not a logical construct either, because if the universe is truly benevolent, the Pittsburgh Panthers shouldn't have received the tip of God's boot for something they had nothing to do with causing. That was Duke on that floor that day.
I'm as guilty as the next person in regards to embracing the supernatural and spreading sportsperstition. I have a lucky t-shirt that I wore for every game during the 1994 Stanley Cup playoffs. (It worked, even though the t-shirt was 3,000 miles away from Madison Square Garden.) I've furthered the idea, on this site and in books and elsewhere, that teams in conferences below a financial "Red Line" share commonalities and should root for one another. Part of the reason why I do this is because I try to stay humble in the face of the game's mysteries, and don't pretend to understand it all. So, like others, I fill in the blank spaces based on my own interpretations. I like things to make sense too.
And here's how I see it: Butler doesn't need cool eyeglasses or made-up magic to win Division I college basketball games. They have access to one of the greatest sets of intangibles there is: The Way. Humility, passion, unity, servanthood and thanksgiving are its five elements, and they are inscribed in stone beneath a bust of legendary coach Tony Hinkle in front of the legendary fieldhouse that bears his name.
There is only one problem with all of that: this was not Tony Hinkle's philosophy. To attribute these five pillars to Butler is to imagine that Mike Krzyzewski designed a "Pyramid of Success" at Duke that was strikingly similar to the one John Wooden had constructed out at UCLA.
I'm sorry I had to do that. My eyes hurt too. Just making a point.
The Butler Way is old, new, blue, and most definitely borrowed. It belonged to Dick Bennett first. He was the head coach at Wisconsin-Green Bay from 1985-1995. In the late stages of his successful time there, two mid-major head coaches -- Jim Larranaga (then at Bowling Green) and Butler's Barry Collier -- met with him. Instead of sharing the secrets of the packline pressure defense, Bennett gave them The Way. Except that he called them his "five non-negotiables."
This meeting really happened. I'm not making it up. Within two decades, each of the three men in that room went to the Final Four. Larranaga with George Mason in 2006, Collier as Butler athletic director in 2010.
Dick Bennett went on to manage something that Collier never could -- he took The Way and make it work in a power-conference setting. He took the Wisconsin Badgers to the 2000 Final Four. That program's pathetic past is well-buried by a decade-long string of NCAA Tournament appearances. If Bennett hadn't jumped the Red Line and shown up from a cross-state satellite school from the proto-Horizon League, Wisconsin might still be trawling the second division of the B1G with Northwestern. Because that's what they were before Bennett: bad. They'd made the NCAA Tournament only three times before The Way arrived. Bennett led them to their first-ever 20-win season.
Wisconsin has not been a Way team since Bennett retired (for the first time) in 2001 and Bo Ryan took over, but the Force is strong with them. And that's why I'm nervous about tonight's game. I want Butler to win just like you do, probably more than you do, but I'm feeling very Star Wars about this. On their way to the 2001 Round of 32, the Bulldogs beat Bennett's final Badger team 58-44 in the regular season. They have not played since. This probably just makes a curse potentiality more potent.
Butler has not properly acknowledged Dick Bennett as the one who passed along The Way to them. Instead, people at the school have, in essence, claimed that they made it up themselves. If there is any such thing as basketball karma, Wisconsin is going to absolutely destroy Butler tonight in New Orleans.
But I think there's a way out of this.
Tonight, before or during the game, take a moment to acknowledge Dick Bennett, and properly credit him as the one who gave Butler The Way. Write his initials on your hand, send up a tweet of thanks, print out a picture of him and put it over your TV set, whatever you feel is right. Butler is on the wrong side of justice here, and justice can be harsh.
P.S.: This. Butler will need a lot of magic to overcome The Diff. #godawgs.
 Butler vs.  Wisconsin - 9:57 pm Southeast Region - New Orleans, LA Athletic:BUTL: $12,394,719 WISC: $90,122,240 ($-78m diff/13.33% of WISC's) Men's Basketball:BUTL: $2,822,892 WISC: $7,539,418 ($-5m diff/28.6% of WISC's)