by Kent Sterling
There are days when I feel sorry for the parts of America not as keenly interested in college basketball as people in Indiana. Today is one of them.
ESPN analyst Dan Dakich always says that 40 minutes is the perfect length for a college basketball game. Not today. It took 45 minutes to decide this incredible game between two Indiana teams loaded with Indiana kids playing a game tightly embraced by Hoosiers as their own.
It’s not often that December games are as hotly contested as today’s game. These kids know each other – either as former teammates or opponents all they way back to grade school, and they knew exactly what each player wanted to do with the ball, and then defensively took that thing away.
The chess match went to Brad Stevens, who continues to defy the odds by rebuilding the Butler Bulldogs again and again. Maintaining excellence at Butler has to be one of the great leadership challenges in sports, and Stevens answers it every year.
This wasn’t Butler putting on the glass slipper again to crash the ball as Cinderella. Cinderella only goes to one ball. Butler has been raising hell with better funded and bigger name programs for years. Indiana wins almost every recruiting battle with Butler, has a practice palace, and five National Championship banners hanging from the Assembly Hall ceiling. Butler has a historic and quaint fieldhouse, a quaint campus, and an assassin for a coach. Advantage Butler – at least on this day.
Plenty of time to talk about things like Butler’s significance in college hoops, the amount of time they can hope to hold on to Stevens, whether Indiana is a legit threat to reclaim the top spot in the polls later in the season, or whether Tom Crean is the right pilot for IU hoops. Today, should be about celebrating a March type game in December.
Great kids. Great game. Purdue and Notre Dame play the second game in today’s doubleheader. Good luck following that opening act.