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Duke Wins Title; Butler Wins Respect 4

Posted on April 06, 2010 by Dean Hybl
NCAA Championship Game: Butler v Duke

Gordon Hayward and Butler came up just short of winning the NCAA title.

While Duke University officially won the 2010 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship with a 61-59 victory over Butler University, there were truly no losers on the court.

Butler came up just short of their storybook ending, but the Bulldogs will forever live in basketball lore as the little team that played gloriously on the big stage.

Though neither Duke nor Butler has more than 8,000 undergraduate students, this was a battle of the big establishment of college basketball against an upstart program from a little conference.

Butler proved throughout the 2010 NCAA Tournament that they truly belonged with the “big boys” of college basketball.

That they nearly pulled off the shocking upset of perennial contender Duke illustrates that the gap between the “big boys” and the “little schools” in today’s college basketball is very minimal.

With two likely NBA players and a strong supporting cast, Butler’s team in 2010 was as legitimate a contender for the NCAA Championship as any squad in the country.

There have been higher scoring and perhaps better played NCAA title games, but the battle between Duke and Butler was a heavyweight fight in which neither team backed down.

The largest lead of the game was a six-point bulge by Duke in the first half (26-20) and in the second half the largest margin was only five points. Read the rest of this entry →

Duke vs. Butler: The Big School Nightmare Comes True 1

Posted on April 04, 2010 by Dean Hybl
NCAA Final Four - Butler v Michigan State

With fewer than 4,000 undergraduate students, Butler University has a smaller total enrollment than the typical freshman class at most of the large public schools that usually are playing for NCAA Division I titles.

For the first time since 1985, the two teams facing off for the NCAA men’s basketball championship will both be representing private institutions. If Butler University is able to come away with the national title it will take a monumental performance akin to what Villanova pulled off against the mighty Georgetown Hoyas 25 years ago.

Typically, the Division I men’s basketball championship is controlled by large public schools with undergraduate enrollments in the tens of thousands.

That will not be the case in 2010 as the combined undergraduate enrollment of Butler and Duke is right around 10,000. There are another 8,000 or so graduate students between the two schools, but even that combined total is only about equal to the number of undergraduate students at 2010 champion North Carolina and well below the undergraduate totals for other recent champions Kansas and Florida.

In fact, other than Duke with three championships, the only other private school to win the NCAA men’s basketball title since 1985 was Syracuse University in 2003.

That a private school will win the title this year amid all the talk of tournament expansion is great irony because the tournament expansion will likely make it even harder for these small, private schools to compete with all the big public universities and their massive enrollments and athletic budgets.

While Duke has bucked the public school trend before, it is the presence of Butler in the title game that strikes the most fear among the big boy conferences because this program from the Horizon League is indeed their worst nightmare. Read the rest of this entry →

Ten-Three-One: The Final Three and the Best of the Rest 1

Posted on March 30, 2010 by John Wingspread Howell

Seeding the Underdog Lover’s Best Tournament Ever

Butler v Kansas State

33-year-old Brad Stephens has led Butler to the Final Four.

The only thing that would have made March Madness an absolute straight flush for underdog fans is Duke losing to Baylor last night. But they came close enough for underdog fans. And this being the tournament in my memory with the most upsets and the most low seeds advancing to the Sweet 16 makes it the Underdog Lover’s best tournament ever.

The great thing about being an underdog fan is that even a nail biter, having to wait until the last minute to know the outcome of a David/Goliath match-up is almost as good as victory.

Now that Duke enters the Final Four as the only surviving one-seed, underdog lovers everywhere can begin focusing our voodoo attacks on a single target and hope to see them crash in the semi’s.

Before going any further with our March Madness analysis, it is necessary to explain the criteria we use to evaluate underdogs in a sort of reverse seeding. In other words, the top seeded dog would be the lowest seeded competitor.

What Makes an Underdog?

There are classic underdogs, and there are relative underdogs. That is why we can only get excited, early in the tournament, about the smaller schools, the long-shots, and the new arrivals.

For the first round we favor “Firsts,” “Worsts,” “Small,” and “The Wall.” Read the rest of this entry →

Cornell Men Complete Magical Run in NCAA Tournament 1

Posted on March 29, 2010 by Chris Kent
Cornell v Kentucky

Cornell made it to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history.

Whenever it was going to come to an end, the Cornell Men’s Basketball team wasn’t going to go quietly this year. The most successful season in program history saw the Big Red post victories over Alabama, Massachusetts, Vermont, Davidson, and St. Johns in the regular season. After winning its’ third straight Ivy League Championship it was onto the NCAA Tournament for the third straight year where they notched their first ever NCAA win with a 78-65 victory over fifth-seeded Temple.

Their second ever NCAA win followed with an impressive 87-69 win over Big Ten foe Wisconsin (No. 4 seed) which sent Cornell to their first ever NCAA Sweet 16, the first Ivy League school to do so since Penn in 1979. Along the way, The Big Red set a school and Ivy League record with 29 victories, finishing 29-5. While Cornell’s NCAA Tournament run ended with a 62-45 loss to top-seeded Kentucky in the NCAA East Regional Semifinals at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, NY on Thursday March 25, the Big Red played with Kentucky nearly the whole game. Refusing to let the Wildcats run away with it, Cornell gave a spirited performance behind the leadership of its’ senior laden team and 10-year veteran head coach, Steve Donahue.

To say the 12th-seeded Big Red were the underdog against Kentucky would be accurate, but not do Cornell justice. Being the lowest seeded team to reach the Sweet 16 certainly meant that they were going to face tougher competition. Yet it didn’t bother the Big Red.

This was a team that took preseason No. 1 Kansas to the wire this year on the Jayhwaks’ home court before coming up on the short end, 71-66. Kansas earned the tournament’s top overall seed and was favored by many to win it
all before losing to ninth-seeded Northern Iowa 69-67 in the second round. Against Kenutcky, the Big Red was in the game nearly the  whole 40 minutes and controlled the tempo throughout the majority of the game.

Read the rest of this entry →

Cornell Reaches First-Ever Sweet 16 2

Posted on March 22, 2010 by Chris Kent
Cornell v Wisconsin

Cornell faithful cheer on their Cinderella team.

Back in the day when I was not even a teenager yet, I developed a strong interest for sports. Soccer was my first interest and the first sport that I played competitively. Soon to follow was football, basketball, volleyball, softball, baseball, field hockey, and swimming.

While I did not compete in all these sports, playing just some leisurely, I had developed a fascination for sports to include even croquet, ping pong, badminton and bowling. Growing up in Ithaca, NY, the small city did not have any minor league, major college, amateur, or professional teams. To this day it still does not.

Cornell University and Ithaca College have provided most of the local sports scene along with the high schools generation after generation after generation. Ithaca College has won three Division III national championships in football (last in 1991) and Cornell has won three national titles in lacrosse (last in 1977) while reaching that sport’s final four two of the last three years. Coaches like the late Jim Butterfield of Ithaca College football and Richie Moran, who coached Cornell lacrosse back in the 1970’s, stand tall in the history of the schools. Read the rest of this entry →

NCAA Tournament Bracket Buster: Northern Iowa Shocks #1 Kansas 1

Posted on March 20, 2010 by Dean Hybl
Northern Iowa v Kansas

Northern Iowa harassed top seeded Kansas throughout their improbable victory over the Jayhawks.

If you had any doubt that there really was no “great” team in college basketball this season, Northern Iowa’s shocking 69-67 victory over number one Kansas in the second round of the NCAA Tournament should confirm the fact.

While it isn’t the greatest upset in tournament history based on seeding, it is definitely notable simply because Kansas was the prohibitive favorite to cut down the nets in Indianapolis (40 percent of participants in ESPN’s Bracket Challenge picked the Jayhawks to win the title).

The last time the overall number one seed lost in the second round of the tournament was in 2004 when Kentucky lost to Alabama-Birmingham in the second round. Interestingly, that year was very similar to 2010 in that there were a number of very good teams, but no team considered to be great. Of the four number one seeds in that tournament (Kentucky, Duke, St. Joseph’s and Stanford), Duke was the only one to reach the Final Four and they lost in the semifinals to eventual champion Connecticut. Read the rest of this entry →

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