Posted: Monday April 4, 2011 10:21AM ; Updated: Monday April 4, 2011 1:11PM
Michael Rosenberg

How unlikely is Butler's success? Just try to do it -- twice

Story Highlights

Brad Stevens and Butler are a special, amazing, once-in-a-lifetime story

Duke, UNC, UConn ... no school makes two straight title games anymore

Stevens has now set the bar for all other coaches, but it's an unfair standard

Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
Shelvin Mack and Ronald Nored
Twice as nice! Shelvin Mack and Ronald Nored are improbably playing in their second straight national title game Monday night.
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Butler is in its second straight national title game, which is as likely as your housecat finishing first at the Westminster Dog Show. Coach Brad Stevens and Butler are a special, amazing, once-in-a-lifetime story. It is certainly not fair to say "Hey, if Butler did it, then why can't (insert school name here) do it, too?" You simply can't expect any school to make two straight championship games ...

... except Indiana. Come on, Tom Crean. Who owns this state, anyway? Sure, the program you inherited was such a mess that we didn't know if you should grab a whistle or a plunger. But IU has far greater resources, tradition and recruiting reach than Butler. You have a bunch of talent coming to Bloomington in the next two years. So we don't ask for much. Just do what Butler did. And if you can't ...

... then Purdue should be able to do it. Right, Matt Painter? You just flirted with Missouri to squeeze a few extra hundred thousand a year out of Purdue, your alma mater. (Goodness, what is the cost of living in West Lafayette these days? Did Steak 'n Shake double its prices?) You've done a wonderful job at Purdue, but now that Butler has established a new state of Indiana standard, we expect you to reach it.

Oops! Sorry. We forgot: We're keeping our expectations reasonable here. We understand Butler's success is a one-time event, or at least a two-time event, and it can't just be replicated anywhere ...

... but why not Arizona? Yes, sure, Sean Miller, you have only been there two years and done a wonderful job by any reasonable standard. Any reasonable pre-Butler standard, that is. You had Derrick Williams, the potential No. 1 pick, and couldn't even make the Final Four. This is Arizona, a powerhouse that Lute Olson molded out of red clay. The Wildcats had a little downturn when Olson retired and Kevin O'Neill was supposed to take over, or as KO himself would say, he was "bleeping supposed to DON'T MAKE ME KILL YOU." But now Miller is entering his third season. Time to deliver!

Wait! We did it again. Sorry. That's not fair to Miller. Besides, we fully appreciate that it is tough to break through in a power conference like the Pac-10. Very tough. We totally understand. Of course, that's not a problem at ...

... Detroit. Coach Ray McCallum, we've got our eye on you. Your team finished 10-8 in the Horizon League this year, just three games behind Butler. Butler gets to recruit talent-rich Indianapolis; you get to recruit talent-rich Detroit. Your son, freshman guard Ray McCallum Jr., was one of the highest-rated recruits in the country last year. We're not saying you should make it to the title game next year, or even the Final Four. Just the Elite Eight.

OK, OK. That's a reach, and besides, we're here to appreciate how unusual Butler's achievement is. And that's because Butler is special. How many mid-major teams get to play home games in one of the most famous and historic arenas in the country? We can't think of another ...

... except Penn. Butler has Hinkle Fieldhouse; Penn has the Palestra. The Quakers also have one of the great traditions in the Ivy League. Coach Jerome Allen knows; he was a great player at Penn. And if Princeton can almost beat Kentucky, and Kentucky can make the Final Four, and Penn prides itself on being better than Princeton ... well, time for Penn's first Final Four since 1979.

What? Does it seem unrealistic to expect that again? After all, Penn has not made the last few NCAA tournaments in a row ...

... like Tennessee. Come on, Cuonzo Martin! You have only been on the job a few days, which is barely long enough to learn the ropes around there. (Rule No. 1: Don't give your child the middle name "Knox" or the first name "Lane.") And your program is so deep in NCAA trouble, when it goes before the Committee on Infractions, you might want to watch what hits the ceiling fan. Are we really going to ask you to improve upon Bruce Pearl's success and ignore that he cheated to do it? Let's put it this way: Did he cheat to do it? We don't remember that.

Fine, fine. We'll leave Martin alone for a few more months/hours. Tennessee is a football school anyway. It's not like the Volunteers' basketball program is a sleeping giant ...

... like Missouri. This is a rabid hoops school that has never quite had the success people thought it should have. But it's got St. Louis, Illinois and Texas in the neighborhood, which means there is plenty of talent to recruit. After all, if Butler could make it to back-to-back title games, then Missouri could easily do it. All the Tigers need is the right coach ...

Wait. They hired Frank Haith? A guy who failed to do better than .500 in his conference in any of his seven years at Miami? Never mind.

Maybe we should just accept that Butler only got here because of an unusual series of events ...

... the kind that happened to North Carolina State back in 1983. And that must mean the Wolfpack is due. Sure, Duke is in the way. And so is North Carolina.. And the new coach is missing a few things -- like, for the moment, a name. And we'd never say Coach (Name) must take N.C. State to the Final Four next season. That would be outrageous. But how about the season after that?

In fact, we have the perfect guy for the job: Brad Stevens. Hire him with the unspoken but clearly implied mandate: If you could take Butler to two straight national title games, imagine what you could do at N.C. State!

No pressure, dude.
Hot Topics: NBA Playoffs NHL Playoffs Chris Johnson Jameis Winston NFL Draft Michael Sam Aldon Smith
TM & © 2014 Time Inc. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you. Read our privacy guidelines, your California privacy rights, and ad choices.
SI CoverRead All ArticlesBuy Cover Reprint