Butler Can Still Do It

Butler was bad. Really bad. Historically bad. Yeah, they played hard. Yeah, they didn’t quit. But they stunk. The Bulldogs couldn’t shoot (just 18% overall, and only three 2-point FGs), couldn’t even get close to the basket (zero points in the paint until late in the game), and in the end they couldn’t keep up with maybe the red-hottest team in sports, UConn, losing 53-41 in the national championship game.
And Butler picked the worst time to look so lame-during their second turn on college basketball’s biggest stage.
On Twitter and elsewhere, critics were understandably out for blood. Some called the Bulldog’s performance an affirmation that while we all like Cinderella, we don’t really want her at the dance. Others said it was a loss for mid-majors everywhere, after making so much progress in recent years that the nom itself was becoming inappropriate. Still others just said they choked under the glare of the moment.
My before-one-shining-moment take was simply this: I do not want to hear another peep from the guys at my neighborhood bar who always whine about how much better college basketball is than the NBA. That argument is done!
But I won’t dwell on last night. Nor should the critics.
Butler was reached back-to-back championship games, an accomplishment not to be diminished.
And they did elevate the status of mid-majors, as did the likes of VCU, Richmond and even Morehead State this year.
They’re here and because their players tend to stay for at least three and in most cases four years, they’ll remain legitimate Final Four contenders. Cinderella will be back. Get used to it.
As for Butler, its legacy should not be tarnished by one miserable moment.
Let’s see if Brad Stevens can build on the climb and not crippled by the fall. Let’s see if he can recruit a Kemba Walker, the player who can actually break down a defense and get his teammates free for open looks. Let’s see if he can recruit a Jeremy Lamb, an athletic shot-blocker with a deft shooting touch. Let’s see if he can recruit an Alex Oraikhi, a clog-up-the-paint stud.
And this isn’t just on Stevens and Butler. By deciding to stay at VCU (albeit after collecting a 400% raise), had coach Shaka Smart-and other mid-major coaches-will play a part in shaping the Butler legacy. If they can not recruit the young man who might have otherwise gone to a school with the big name on the uni, then what Butler and their peers did this season will not go unrecognized.
In fact, it would have changed the game-and for the better.

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