Duke's Miles Plumlee (21) and teammates celebrate after Duke's 61-59 win over Butler in the men's NCAA Final Four college basketball championship game Monday, April 5, 2010, in Indianapolis.
Life is never going to be quite the same for
the little guys.
Butler may have lost to Duke 61-59 in the national title game
Monday night. By hanging with Duke and making the Blue Devils work
for every last bit of their fourth national title, though, the
Bulldogs reminded everyone that heart, not size or status, is what
As Gordon Hayward's desperation 3-pointer clanged off the rim
and confetti began dropping from the ceiling, Matt Howard collapsed
at halfcourt and covered his face in his hands, coming so
agonizingly close two days after being knocked loopy against
It wasn't quite the "Hoosiers" sequel that almost the entire
crowd of 70,930 - not to mention all those new Butler fans around
the country - had hoped for. But Butler's run will be one for the
"We do have something bigger than basketball," guard Ronald
Nored said. "This will only take us so far, and we have a lifetime
to enjoy it."
College athletics have become almost sterile, as much big
business as game. Most teams that get this far in the tournament
are from major universities, with facilities that would make NBA
teams drool and budgets that dwarf the GNPs of some third-world
But Butler puts the "old" in old school.
With 4,200 students, it was the smallest school to play for the
title since the field was expanded to 64 in 1985 and
fourth-smallest overall. Forget state-of-the-art facilities. The
Bulldogs play in an 82-year-old gym, the barn-like Hinkle
Fieldhouse. Practice there, too. At 6:30 a.m. There are no athletic
dorms and, yes, those were some of the Butler players spotted in
the classroom Monday morning.
It's the way they play that most charmed people, though. The
Bulldogs call it "The Butler Way," and it has nothing to do with
Xs and Os, backdoor cuts or zone defense. It's the next guy
stepping up, everybody having each other's back.
"Somebody that is a team-first person, that accepts
responsibility, accountable for their actions," coach Brad Stevens
said before the game when asked to define it. "I think those are
all things that lend to a successful program."
Almost got the Bulldogs (33-5) a national title, too.
Duke's Big Three - Kyle Singler, Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith -
combined for 47 points, and the Blue Devils were the first to get
60 points off of Butler in more than a month. But the Bulldogs were
relentless, forcing Duke to put up 3s that had no chance - the Blue
Devils were 5 of 17 from 3-point range - or burn almost the entire
shot clock before getting a decent look.
And despite a considerable size advantage - Duke center Brian
Zoubek is 7-1 while Butler "center" Howard is 6-8 - Duke had only
two more rebounds, and the Bulldogs won the battle on the offensive
glass, 14 to 11.
But Duke knows a thing or two about defense, too, and the
Bulldogs couldn't overcome yet another woeful shooting night. Two
days after going 15 of 49 against Michigan State, the Bulldogs were
almost as bad, making 20 of 58 (34.5 percent) against the Blue
Hayward, Butler's best pro prospect, was limited to 12 points on
2-of-11 shooting. Shelvin Mack 12 and Howard, who played two days
after suffering a concussion in a hard collision with Michigan
State, finished with 11. Avery Jukes, better known for his
foundation that benefits Ugandan kids than his shooting,
contributed 10. It was just the third time this season he'd cracked
the double-digit mark, but he was scoreless in the second half.
The Bulldogs took a 43-42 lead on a 3-pointer by Ronald Nored
with 13:36 left. But Singler made yet another 3 - he was 3 of 6
from long range - and Duke never trailed again.
Howard, playing with four fouls, pulled Butler within 60-59 with
a layup with 55 seconds left. Singler missed at the other end and
Nored came up with the rebound. But Hayward missed a jumper and
Zoubek got the rebound. Zoubek was fouled by Mack and made the
first, screaming as the ball dropped through the net.
He intentionally missed the second and Hayward got the rebound
with three seconds left. But his long 3 missed, bringing an end to
Butler's wonderful ride. Also ended was Butler's 25-game losing
streak, which had been the longest in the country.
"I was standing at half-court and thought it was going,"
Howard said, rubbing his eyes. "That makes it even more
devastating when it rims out."