If there is one thing that I have become an expert in since early November (you can figure out why), it is disregarding the ignorance of people whose blind allegiance and emotion prevents them from acknowledging indisputable evidence.
I’ve learned that there is no need to become agitated at their stupidity, so I politely nod my head and carry on knowing full well what the situation really is.
So when national basketball analyst Kenny Smith (who covers college basketball all of seven days a year) referred to Butler prior to its 74-65 men’s basketball victory Saturday in the NCAA Tournament as “the big of the mids,” meaning the Bulldogs were among the best teams of the so-called “mid-major” programs, I gave the comment an eye roll and a sigh and continued to unwaveringly eat my bowl of ice cream.
The Bulldogs beat the Blue Raiders (31-5), a feat in itself, and with the victory advanced to the Sweet 16 next weekend in Memphis.
“I had a coach friend of mine send me a clip yesterday of CBS Sports Network saying we weren't good enough to beat them,” third-year Butler coach Chris Holtmann said in a postgame press conference Saturday. “We didn't have good enough players to beat Middle Tennessee. I would like to call those guys out. I would love to. I won't. I didn't show that to our guys, but to say it burned me up, it absolutely did.
“You know, as I said earlier to our team in there, as the late Joel Cornette said, ‘We're still here.’”
Which is an annual rite for the Bulldogs at this time of year.
Much like the masses that populate middle America and its political stupor, I could point out to Smith (as well as those guys at CBS Sports Network) statistics that clearly exhibit the fact that Butler is nothing resembling a “mid-major” program.
The Bulldogs finished second in the Big East with a 12-6 record, a conference whose RPI ranks it third out of 32 leagues. That is higher than the Big Ten, the Southeastern Conference and the Pac-12 (ranking fourth through sixth, respectively).
This is a program that has been ranked in the top 25 nationally each of the past three seasons.
“I think it’s an honor playing against a team like Butler,” Middle Tennessee State forward JaCorey Williams said in a press conference Friday. “We want to be so much like their school. To watch their school grow from seven years ago until now is really incredible. You can’t really call them a mid-major. They’re so effective in this tournament. They play like a major school.”
That is because Butler IS a “major school.”
— Butler Basketball (@ButlerMBB) March 19, 2017
Williams seemingly grasps that inarguable point, but for Smith’s benefit, I could mention that the Bulldogs (25-8) have now won 21 games in the NCAA Tournament since the 2001 tournament, which is 50 percent more than Indiana and Purdue (14 each) or Notre Dame (13).
I could point out that while Purdue fans are ecstatic at their program making its third Sweet 16 in 15 seasons, Butler has achieved that feat five times in that span.
Casual basketball fans often speak of Butler’s “magical two-year run,” which culminated with a pair of national runner-up finishes in 2010 and 2011, and I could inform them that Butler is a program that has averaged over 22 wins per season for the past 27 years. So that “magical run” has really stretched nearly three decades, not 24 months.
The reality is that Butler evolved into one of the nation’s best programs a while ago and it has repeatedly reinforced that fact over the past 15 years.
During this season, the Bulldogs beat six nationally ranked teams, including the defending national champion (Villanova) twice. A down year for ‘Nova perhaps? Not quite. The Wildcats were the top-seeded team in this tournament.
“When you can win at Villanova,” Middle Tennessee State coach Kermit Davis said Friday, “you have a chance to win a national championship. And they do.”
The numbers and victories don’t lie in regard to Butler. And neither does the talent of its players and the acumen of its coaching staff.
The Bulldogs are an elite program, have been an elite program, and will continue to be an elite program as long as Holtmann and his staff remains there.
But just in case all of that isn’t enough data to convince Smith, whose alma mater (North Carolina) is a possible opponent for Butler next weekend, here is one more statistic: The Bulldogs have played the renowned Tar Heels two times in the past five seasons, and yes, as you can guess, Butler won both games (by eight and nine points).
At this point, Butler fans, it is best just to nod your head toward any skeptics, smile politely, and carry on as you enjoy yet another spectacular March run by your Bulldogs, because regardless of those imbeciles, we all know the real truth.
This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Tom Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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