Sweetest NCAA Memories #6: Butler to the Sweets

Posted by rtmsf on March 13th, 2009


RTC asked its legion of correspondents, charlatans, sycophants, toadies and other hangers-on to send us their very favorite March Madness memory,  something that had a visceral effect on who they are as a person and college basketball fan today.  Not surprisingly, many of the submissions were excellent and if you’re not fired up reading them, then you need to head back over to PerezHilton for the rest of this month.  We’ve chosen the sixteen best, and we’ll be counting them down over the next two weeks as we approach the 2009 NCAA Tournament.

Your School, Your Time (submitted by Damon Lewis of the Horizon League Network)

Growing up I always thought of myself as a big time college basketball fan.  I remember feeling very fortunate that my school always held half-days on the first Thursday-Friday of March Madness.  Sure, it was pure coincidence, but I liked to think that it was somehow a sign that we were supposed to be watching the games, and that’s exactly what I did.  It wasn’t until I went to college at Butler that I learned what March Madness was truly all about.  After having collected 25 wins in 2001-2002, and falling victim to a rage-tastic NCAA snub, the Bulldogs responded the following season with 25 more wins, and this time an at-large bid into the Big Dance.  Birmingham, Alabama was the site, Mississippi State was the draw, and there was no question I’d be attending.  The first step was figuring out “how” and the second step was figuring out “when” – as many of my friends and I had a fraternity formal scheduled for the exact same weekend.  It didn’t take long for the plans to come together, however.  We’d leave Friday morning, and 8 hours later we’d be in Birmingham, just in time to be able to watch a potential 2nd-round opponent, the Louisville Cardinals.  After the game, we’d drive straight back and attend our formal the next night on a few hours of sleep.  Just another day in the life of a college kid, right?

Butler Rode Cornette & Co. to the Second Weekend (photo credit: enquirer.com)

Butler Rode Cornette & Co. to the Second Weekend (photo credit: enquirer.com)

All went as planned.  Myself and 3 others drove all day on Friday, constantly going over why we thought our Bulldogs (not Mississippi State’s) would be victorious.  We tried to convince ourselves all afternoon that we’d be marching on, but none of us really believed it.  We were just happy to be able to escape the cold air of Indianapolis for a day.  Soon enough we arrived, and caught a glimpse of why Louisville was so feared that season (02-03).  They hammered Austin Peay in the first game of the night session, ending the Governors’ season.  As that game ended, the butterflies really started to build.  I was at an NCAA Tournament game, and not to just watch and enjoy the action.  I was there for MY team.  And I can tell you, win or lose, there’s nothing like being able to root for your team at the NCAA Tournament.  When you’re a heavy underdog, playing a team from the SEC, in SEC country, there’s something about feeling that momentum build as David is taking its best shots at Goliath.

As tip-time neared, everything that had been absorbed from watching Butler for an entire season began racing through my brain.  They needed to shoot well from the perimeter, stay out of foul trouble, and most importantly – control the tempo.  That Butler squad enjoyed grinding out possessions, and they were damn good at it.  At the same time, everything that had been absorbed from that entire week – pundits predicting a massive Mississippi State victory for being seeded too low as a #5 – also came rushing to the front of my brain.  It was a different, unsettling feeling, one that I haven’t felt about any Butler basketball team ever since.  The game took shape – painfully slow – just the type that Butler wanted.  There were punches, counter-punches, and counter-counter-punches, all spread VERY far and wide across both 20-minute halves.  Slowly, the “neutral” fans began to get on Butler’s bandwagon, and before anyone knew it, the game was still up for grabs with just seconds remaining.  Then this happened…

That feeling is one that I’ll never, ever forget.  They had done it, and David had advanced to the Round of 32.  Other friends of mine stayed in Birmingham.  They called their dates to our fraternity formal and cancelled on them, but it was understandable given the circumstances.  Our small crew of four hopped back in the car and drove all night up I-65 back to Indianapolis.  It was the fastest eight hours I’ve ever spent in a car.  We went to our formal on Saturday night, and of course the victory was all anyone could talk about.  A fun time was had by all, but I don’t remember all that much of it.  I was already thinking about Sunday’s showdown with Louisville.  Combine that with the lack of sleep and an excessive amount of malted hops, and, well, you get the picture.  Everyone woke up early Sunday morning and headed back to campus to see if our classmates had one more unthinkable performance in them.  This is what we saw…

Needless to say, the scene on campus was unreal.  Everyone ran out of their housing units as soon as the final buzzer sounded, and it was pandemonium in the streets.  Sure, there were only a couple-thousand out there, but that was easily over half the campus!  To this day, I think about that 48-hour period every time March rolls around.  And, honestly, I usually end up telling this story to someone, whether they’ve heard it already or not.  I’ve been to several of Butler’s NCAA Tournament games since that weekend, but the sequel is never, EVER as good as the original.  That is, unless the latest sequel involves a run to the Elite 8 (or beyond) in the next couple weeks…

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