Butler beats Wisconsin Thursday night 61 – 54 and makes another return to the Elite Eight.  At some point what they call The Butler Way in central Indiana will make sense to the doubters everywhere else.  Back home the folks seem to have gotten it.   But even in the Hoosier state embracing the Butler Way was years in the making.  A year ago I was sure that a near championship would lead to national respect.  Sadly, I was wrong.  Butler is still Cinderella, but hopefully not much longer.

Respect is hard won when you play in the Horizon League,  lose your star player to the NBA, and drop a game or two to teams like Youngstown State and Evansville.  To a lot of the naysayers it doesn’t matter that the Bulldogs went to the national championship game last year.  They have yet to earn a pedigree.

Case in point: despite a nine point Butler halftime lead, Charles Barkley sat on his ever expanding can in the TV studio and insisted that Wisconsin would come back and win the game, he was almost right, as Butler squandered a 20 point lead, but I do hope he’s enjoying his crow right now.

While I’m tired of seeing and hearing the doubters, I do understand.  Most of our sports reference points don’t have little schools like Butler staying in the winning column for very long.  Every instinct tells the so-called “experts” and just about everyone else that this must be an aberration.  For some teams that might be true.   But I’ve come to believe that there really is something to the Butler Way.

The Butler Way starts with players who actually believe in TEAM.  No one player is bigger or better than the whole.  The Butler Way is also about defense, swarming, suffocating, in-your-face, annoying defense.  Butler held Big Ten powerhouse Wisconsin to just 27 points for the first 30 minutes of the game.  Butler defenses the passing lanes better than any team in the nation.  They also lead in floor burns.

The Butler Way is also about its coach.  Brad Stevens has won more games than any D-1 coach in his first four seasons.  There is a reason for that.  Stevens, who looks like boy wonder, is the master of the game plan and preparation.  He’s a coach who doesn’t need to yell at and berate his players.   He’s cool, cerebral and focused on the sideline, and his players stay intense, even intimidating on the court.

So Butler moves on.  They will play second seeded Florida on Saturday.  Of course they will be the underdog.  But don’t be surprised if the Butler Way mesmerizes the Gators and finally convinces the country.  Its not like they haven’t done this before.


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  1. Marianne Jackson says:

    Truer words were never spoken, Mr. Burnett. I also was amazed at Mr. Barkley’s insistence that Butler would NOT win that game, that Wisconsin would simply amp up the second half and regain the lead. Oh no, Sir Charles, you don’t understand the gut of these Indiana basketball lads. They not only represent our state in the pursuit of the championship with no other Indiana teams coming close, they do it WITHOUT GORDON HAYWOOD as you swore it would be impossible. GO DAWGS and Coach Stevens, we are proud of you!

  2. Linda Bryant says:

    I agree with your comments. I was born in Indiana, graduated from IU Bloomington. We live in CA now and since UCLA is out of the Final 4, we hardly get any sports news. Since IU has lost all hope of winning, I watched Bulter last year. Last night we were glued to the TV and saw a great game. I was afraid BU would lose in the end. Today going to work, KNX radio, a large CBS station in the LA area, came on at about 4:50 am saying “Duke and Bulter took stage right, the two final 4 from last year are gone.” Then he continued saying Butler lost to Wisconsin and Wisconsin will play Florida. If we could use our cell phones while driving I would have called in right away. I got to my office about 10 minutes later and called KNX telling them how big of a mistake they made. I spoke to the sports department and told them they should make a correction. I am not sure the guy believed me. Same station last week said North Carolina won the NCAA in 1981. Wrong IU won. Butler doesn’t even get credit when they do win. Go Butler.