"Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves."
- Philippians 2:3
BROOKLYN, N.Y. - No matter your beliefs, there's a reason why jealousy is mentioned so many times in The Bible, and why envy made the cut to be included in the seven cardinal or deadly sins, along with all-time favorites like lust and gluttony.
Yet we can't escape it, even in sports, and it seems to be particularly prevalent in college basketball. Who is the most hated team in the nation? Duke, you say? Why? Well, because when you break it down, they win a lot. If they didn't over a long period of time, we likely wouldn't despise them as much. People will make excuses: they hate the over-the-top Duke fans, their coach, their players. But in reality, you can't stand the fact that they win so many basketball games.
Look, I'm right there with you. Lehigh beating Duke was a highlight of my 2011-12 season, and it wouldn't have been had C.J. McCollum and crew upset, say, Florida State, even if they were a No. 2 seed. If I were to personally meet Mike Krzyzewski or someone involved directly with the program, I'd probably think they were great people. Yet the hate for the Duke brand persists.
Human nature really hasn't changed all that much through the millennia.
The report, "Breaking: Butler to join Big East next season" wasn't even a mild shock to anyone that had been paying attention in the last few weeks and months, but those words placed together in that order was (and still is) jarring to look at.
Hours before the news broke, I got my first taste of what Butler, the national program, would look like in the Atlantic-10 quarterfinals at the Barclays Center. The Bulldogs were wearing the dark jerseys as the higher seed, but they were clearly favorite over No. 4 La Salle. The upstart Explorers were also in a more precarious position than Butler, sitting somewhere near the dreaded NCAA Tournament bubble, trying to get there for the first time in more than two decades.
So you knew where my loyalties lied here. La Salle, a team that plays a relatively tiny gym trying to punch above its weight against the establishment? Let's go Explorers.
He may not be Krzyzewski quite yet, but Brad Stevens is getting perilously close to a household name in college basketball circles, and immediately caught the ire of the small band of LaSalle faithful by standing up and complaining to referees about some early calls going against him.
"Sit down, you jerk!," was the cry.
"Yeah, sit down, jerk!," I thought.
And when the officials - seemingly with good cause to be honest - finally gave Stevens a technical foul, most of the fans who weren't wearing Butler navy roared in approval.
Of course, going back to the original premise at play here, why has Butler become such a hot commodity? Why have they gone from the Horizon League to the Big East in just two seasons?
Because they've been ridiculously successful. And we'll all jealous of them.
However, the well-drilled Butler machine took advantage of a glaring La Salle hole in the middle, sophomore Steve Zack was on crutches, and his replacement - Jerrell Wright - was trying his darnedest (finishing with 11 rebounds), but he didn't have a whole lot of help and eventually Butler just started to wear them down.
The lead slowly went from six to eight to 10, and eventually the life was squeezed out of La Salle and its fans. It didn't help that Ramon Galloway, the hero of the upset of Butler in January, had a miserable shooting afternoon, going only 1-for-10 from the field, although certainly some of the credit went to Stevens and Butler's defense.
The Bulldogs didn't even make things interesting at the end, with the game out of reach, John Giannini told his team not to foul and the Explorers were one-and-done in the Atlantic-10 Tournament with barely a whimper, and now face an agonizing wait to see if the NCAA Tournament Committee takes pity on the small school and doesn't banish them to the NIT, which would obviously be a shame.
I understand logic and economics (to a point at least), and you can't begrudge someone for bettering their life or a business for making itself more profitable. There is nothing underhanded about what Butler has done, they've simply been better than most and their success has come at a time period that has given them tremendous opportunity.
In a perfect world, we would stand and applaud them for being the model program they are, and strive to get ourselves better to match their work ethic, commitment, and talent.
I try so hard to fight the urge, but as I watch Stevens casually walk off the floor after yet another victory, I can't help myself.
Sorry, God, I'm envious. Please forgive me.
BUTLER 69, LA SALLE 58 03/15/2013
BUTLER 26-7 (11-5) -- R. Clarke 6-16 0-0 14; R. Jones 5-8 0-0 10; A. Smith 3-9 5-5 11; K. Dunham 3-9 2-2 9; K. Woods 4-5 2-2 10; K. Marshall 6-7 1-1 13; A. Barlow 0-1 0-0 0; E. Fromm 1-2 0-0 2; C. Stigall 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 28-57 10-10 69. LA SALLE 21-9 (11-5) -- T. Duren 8-13 0-1 19; R. Galloway 1-10 2-3 4; S. Mills 1-8 0-0 3; J. Wright 5-7 4-6 14; T. Garland 4-9 4-5 14; D. Peterson 0-1 0-0 0; R. Brown 0-1 1-2 1; G. Hunt 0-0 0-0 0; T. Dunn 1-1 0-0 3. Totals 20-50 11-17 58.
Three-point goals: BUTL 3-15 (R. Clarke 2-9; A. Smith 0-1; A. Barlow 0-1; K. Dunham 1-4), LAS 7-23 (T. Dunn 1-1; R. Galloway 0-7; T. Duren 3-6; S. Mills 1-4; T. Garland 2-4; D. Peterson 0-1); Rebounds: BUTL 37 (K. Woods 9), LAS 22 (J. Wright 11); Assists: BUTL 10 (A. Barlow 3), LAS 11 (R. Galloway 6); Total Fouls -- BUTL 14, LAS 15; Fouled Out: BUTL-None; LAS-None.