No, I didn’t take my ’99 Ford Exploder out for a weird spin this morning. Today’s topic is about the NCAA Men’s Hoops National Championship game last night. Anyone that knows me well knows I was rooting against the eventual winner of the game, the Duke Blue Devils. Reluctantly I congratulate them on their victory, but more importantly, I want to talk about the team that didn’t win the game, the Butler Bulldogs.

I say it that way because I do not consider the Butler team to have lost. They played a great game and did a wonderful job of keeping Duke in check. Either team could have won that game. It was a tough game and one of the best I have ever seen.

What made this game so important was it showed that a team from a “mid-major” conference, as Butler’s Horizon League is referred to, can play just fine with the big boys from the major conferences. There was nothing “mid-major” about Butler’s effort. They played hard and were in that game until the end.

Just like George Mason University proved when they went to the Final Four in 2006, schools from smaller conferences are worthy of playing in the big games. Once in a while, one of those “mid-major” teams can show their stuff and surprise all of the pundits. Just because a school isn’t in one of the elite conferences doesn’t mean they should be written off. Basketball is basketball. It has been played for many years by big and small schools alike. Put forth the effort and win; if you do, come to the dance with the rest of the schools and show everyone what you’ve got.

About the only team I would have rooted for instead of Butler would have been my beloved UNC Tar Heels. However, the Heels had a lousy year and barely made it into the NIT tourney, the one that highlights the “best” of the also-rans. Likewise, because of my Tar Heel allegiance, I would have rooted for a beer league bowling team to beat Duke at hoops. It’s no secret that I loathe Duke. But I will say that I have a newly found respect for Butler. Like Gonzaga before them, I think the country has a new underdog to root for. And like Gonzaga, Butler is represented by the mighty but ever-lovable bulldog!

Butler showed class and just enough swagger to prove that they belonged on the same court as Duke. Butler’s defense was relentless. It was like a swarm against Duke’s offense. This was the only game in the whole tourney that a team scored 60 points on Butler. No one else could rack up that number and Duke just did, plus one. And if Gordon Hayward of Butler would have had just one more biscuit for breakfast yesterday, that last second shot of his may have gone in and Butler would have done what people thought was impossible. David would have slain Goliath – Butler would have knocked off the Mighty Duke.

My point is this – in basketball, as in life, never count out the little guy. That little guy just might be able to whoop your ass if you aren’t prepared for what they bring to the game. Duke almost found that out. But this was basketball and not horseshoes, so almost didn’t count. I still doff my cap to the Butler Bulldogs. Even though they didn’t win the game, they sure as hell didn’t lose either.

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