Butler deserved Final Four appearance

Story by Kyle Davis

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The school may be Butler University, but it was not in the Final Four to serve others.

Butler’s story tells like a fairy tale. The Bulldogs basically played the Final Four at home in Indianapolis, their home gym is where the movie “Hoosiers” was filmed and as a No. 5 seed, they were one of the two lowest seeds out of the four teams that remained.

As great of a story as this is, don’t make the mistake of calling this team a Cinderella. It is not because of a fairy tale that Butler made it to that point and although it plays in a mid-major conference, the Horizon League, it is not a mid-major.

Anyone completely caught off guard by this No. 5 seed’s appearance in Indianapolis has missed out on an impressive story throughout the season. This was not just an impressive postseason run. The Bulldogs have been dominating the hardwood since the new decade began. And for that matter, Butler has been making noise in the amphitheater of college basketball for years, making the NCAA Tournament seven times since 2000 and reaching the Sweet 16 in 2003.

Butler had the nation’s longest winning streak, at 24 games, heading into the Final Four, not losing since Dec. 22.

The Bulldogs went 18-0 in their conference, and even though the Horizon League isn’t a powerhouse conference, it did produce four 20-win teams. No matter the conference’s strength, an undefeated conference schedule is an impressive feat.

The team has also had its share of tough competition. Three of the four losses the Bulldogs suffered, with the exception of UAB, were to NCAA Tournament teams Minnesota, Clemson and Georgetown. Butler also compiled wins over Ohio State and Xavier, both members of the Sweet 16, in the regular season before beating Syracuse and Kansas State in the Sweet 16 and Elite 8.

Butler seemed like the odd man out in the Final Four lineup, yet the Bulldogs finished ranked higher than opponent Michigan State in the final ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll of the season, Butler ranked No. 8 compared to No. 12-ranked Michigan State. Then, they beat the Spartans to advance to the championship game.

As much as people would love to throw Butler in the category of past Cinderellas, such as George Mason and Davidson, the Bulldogs don’t belong. Butler, Xavier and Gonzaga have become household names that are the faces of their conferences that challenge the national powers in the regular season and postseason.

Butler didn't crash the Final Four party, even if people missed them on the guest list. After all, playing the Final Four in Indianapolis, the Bulldogs played the role of host.<br/>