So there's no Duke or Kansas in the NCAA Title game this year, or even an Ohio State or a Notre Dame, but that doesn't mean we don't have a really good game lined up for tonight between two teams that defied the odds and expectations to reach the pinnacle of their sport. In fact, it could be argued that tonight's game is MORE interesting because of the lack of NCAA royalty.
8th seeded Butler vs 3rd seeded UConn, maybe not a match made in Heaven but definitely one made in Disney as these two Cinderella teams have opened the eyes of a nation.
Maybe calling Butler a 'Cinderella' is doing them a disservice since they were in last years title game and was a bad bounce away from upsetting Duke, but in reality, nobody had them making this run after losing their top player, Gordon Hayward, to the pros last year along with two of their other top scorers. Sprinkle in that Butler is also considered a mid-major school, a title which does little to inspire respect among the NCAA, and you had the perfect recipe for an underdog.
Though don't expect Butler to just be happy to return to the Finals.
"We're not going to settle on just getting back," said Zach Hahn, a key bench player for Butler. "I remember the sour taste it left in my mouth last year, and I just think this group, we're here now and we have a chance. That's all you can ask."
Now UConn on the other hand, is clearly a Cinderella. They went a dismal 9-9 in their conference and had to do the improbable to even get to the tournament, win the Big East Tournament. For the record, winning the that tourney consisted of winning five games in five days, a feat that is impressive on its own, and when you count in this run to the Finals, then you have possibly the greatest college basketball story in recent history.
If this UConn run is a story then the electric Kemba Walker is the leading character as his elevated play is the main reason this team has made it this far. Already an exciting player, Walker raised his game considerably during this run, averaging 26 points a game while elevating the play of everyone around him.
"This is special," Walker said. "We've been through a lot of ups and downs this season, but we all stuck with each other and we're in a great position right now."
When this title game tips off tonight, at 9:23 pm on CBS, these two teams are going to throw down in epic fashion in a game that nobody saw happening and though there can be only one Champion, both of them are winners for what they have done so far.
Hollywood can fashion great movies and novelists can write tales so fantastic that it brings tears to your eyes but sometimes real life can deliver you stories that defy even the greatest minds and it's safe to say that this match-up falls in this category.