From Monday's The Washington Post
INDIANAPOLIS- There are a number of people here who have grown tired of the comparisons being drawn between Butler 2010 and Milan 1954 -- the Indiana high school team whose story was made into the stuff of legends by the movie "Hoosiers."
Those people are going to have to deal with it -- at least for one more game, and perhaps forever if Butler can beat Duke in Monday's national championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Duke is, without question, the opponent a screenwriter would choose for Butler in this game. The Blue Devils are to college basketball what Muncie Central was to Indiana high school basketball 56 years ago. They are the power team, the one with the superstar coach and the swagger of a team most people will expect to win a fourth national title when they play the Bulldogs.
What's more, the way the two semifinal games played out on Saturday night will give people reason to shake their heads and say that Butler has had a great run that is bound to end against the Blue Devils.
Butler scraped by Michigan State, 52-50, on pure grit. With two starters injured for most of the game's last 10 minutes, the Bulldogs had almost no offense. After a Willie Veasley steal and dunk put Butler ahead 44-37 with 12:18 to play, the Bulldogs made one field goal--a layup by Gordon Hayward with 1:36 to go after Shawn Vanzant had somehow grabbed a Hayward miss and gotten the ball back to him--and scored eight points in all down the stretch.
Click here for the rest of the column - Butler has the talent to upset Duke in the NCAA championship game
From Sunday's The Washington Post
INDIANAPOLIS - When Milan beat Muncie Central in 1954 to win the Indiana high school state championship in arguably the most famous game in basketball history, the final score was 32-30.
That game took place about six miles from Lucas Oil Stadium. On Saturday night, in the opening game of the Final Four, Butler and Michigan State almost recreated "Hoosiers," -- without Bobby Plump hitting the winning shot. It was Gordon Hayward, who is to Butler what Plump was to Milan, who made the Bulldogs' only field goal of the last 12 minutes 18 seconds, but this was a game about missed shots, not about a made one.
"I really didn't think 15 for 49 was a great way to approach this game," Butler Coach Brad Stevens joked after his team had survived those shooting numbers to win, 52-50. "I never would have dreamed that we would have won the game that way."
They did win the game, though, with outstanding defense, with a critical offensive rebound late in the game, with a little bit of luck and perhaps a final push from the officials.
As is bound to be the case on a night when the teams shot a combined 33 of 91 from the field, the game came down to one possession.
With Butler leading 50-49, Ronald Nored had a layup go in and out. Michigan State called a timeout with 23 seconds left and -- not surprisingly -- tried to punch the ball inside to try to get the lead. Draymond Green caught the ball in the lane and went right at Hayward, who at 6 feet 9 plays inside on defense and often brings the ball up against pressure on offense.
Green went up and so did Hayward. The ball rolled off Green's fingers and came up well short -- an air ball from six feet -- with the Michigan State bench screaming for a foul. Given that the officials had been calling fouls on just about anything resembling contact all night, it probably wasn't an unreasonable hope.
Click here for the rest of the column: Butler is just one victory from another storybook ending
From Saturday's The Washington Post
INDIANAPOLIS - In March 1993, Duke and North Carolina played each other in Chapel Hill in a game with all sorts of national ramifications. Duke was the defending national champion. North Carolina was ranked No. 1 in the country.
Early in the game the two coaches, Mike Krzyzewski and Dean Smith, both clearly uptight, were up on every whistle. After several minutes, lead referee Lenny Wirtz had seen and heard enough. He called Krzyzewski and Smith to the scorer's table.
"I know it's a big game," he said. "I know you're both a little hyper. But you have to calm down and let us work the game."
Smith nodded. Krzyzewski did not. "Lenny, there's 21,000 people in here who are all against me," he said. "You three guys are the only ones I can talk to."
Wirtz laughed. Smith did not. "Lenny, don't let him do that," he said. "He's trying to get you on his side."
Krzyzewski glared at Smith, who glared back. Krzyzewski stalked back to his bench and said to his assistant coaches, "If I ever start to act like him, don't ask a single question, just get a gun and shoot me."
Time to round up the guns.
That's not to say that Krzyzewski has morphed into his former arch rival, but as he has become older, more successful and more famous, it is clear that he has come to see the world through a prism far more similar to Smith than he might ever have imagined.
Click here for the rest of the column: Final Four 2010: It's not so easy to tell Coach K and Dean Smith apart