Opinon: Butler back in Final Four? Yeah, baby!

Michael Moses

Michael Moses

I told you. I told you to not pick the top seeds. I warned you in my last column that the experts are always wrong. The analysts on ESPN don’t know any more than the general public during March Madness.

Except, of course, for me. I was the genius that put the Butler Bulldogs back into the Final Four. Take that, Vitale — yeah, baby!

I always was a fan of the underdog. I love a true Hoosiers story. Last year, I was away from American civilization, stranded in Italy, watching college hoop games at wee hours of the morning. I loved the Butler Bulldogs. I hated Duke, and I wanted that desperation shot to drop almost as much as Gordon Hayward himself.

I can remember at the beginning of this season ESPN did a special on Butler — the NCAA runner-ups. The tiny Indiana school that lost its star player, Hayward, to the NBA. They were returning three starters. The story focused on nothing in the past but focused on how tough the road ahead was. Could they even get back to the NCAA tournament this year? Could they win a game? Nothing was said about a return to the Final Four.

And now look. Where’s Ohio State? Gone. Pitt? They didn’t last. Kansas and Texas? Out, too. Here we are with three games left in the college basketball season, and the Bulldogs are still standing.

Is it really that surprising? Do you think it’s that much of a “Cinderella story” this year? Sure, they were a No. 5 seed last year and a No. 8 this time around. But everyone always talks about the “E” word: experience. This team made a run last year — a damn impressive one. They came within a buzzer-beater of upsetting Coach K and perennial power Duke. So why are people calling this a surprise?

It’s not. They’re the ones returning to the Final Four. Butler should be the favorite and “experts” should have given them more credit from the start. Any other year, the defending runner-ups would have had a lot more hype. But since they were a in a mid-major conference, since they were the “one-in-a-million” team to make it to the championship, the nation wrote off all hopes for a return to the title game.

The Bulldogs are led by forward Matt Howard and guard Shelvin Mack. Both Howard and Mack score over 15 points per game and have been filling the hole Hayward left in the lineup. Butler has been battle-tested all year long, playing Louisville, Duke and Florida State during the regular season. It didn’t get much easier come tournament time, either.

They barely got by Old Dominion in the opening round, winning by just two points, but followed that matchup by beating No. 1-seeded Pitt, Wisconsin and most recently No. 2-seeded Florida. Impressive? I’d say so.

Butler has won 13 straight dating back to February 3. That’s more than Kentucky’s 10 straight and UConn’s 9. They are two wins away from being named National Champions.

Virginia Commonwealth may be stealing the limelight from them with their George Mason-esque journey to the Final Four, Kemba Walker may be taking this year’s tournament over individually and Kentucky may have the best young talent, but Butler is the favorite in this year’s Final Four. Nothing beats experience.

As for my pick, my bracket boasting the Butler Bulldogs in my final four — I wish it was true. It’s April Fools’ Day, people.