What an exciting run that Butler made this season!
Keith Dambrot has wanted to be the Gonzaga of the Midwest. Too late. Maybe Akron can be the Butler of Ohio.
Beyond that, what has separated these elite programs from their mid-major peers -- and for prolonged periods? Butler and Gonzaga have been really good for a long time now.
First, and I think most obvious, is the high-major athleticism. For Gonzaga, it was long, leaping wing players. For Butler, it was lightning-quick guards.
Second is the premier scorer. Gonzaga has done it with Adam Morrison. Butler used Gordon Hayward. When crunch time comes, you know who's getting the ball. You know that person has won games before. And you know they have the confidence to do it again.
Third is the swarming defense. Butler forced a lot of long shot clocks with its aggressive perimeter defense tonight. It should be intuitive that defense -- once crystallized -- is one function that does not have "off nights."
Fourth is luck. Butler played a lot of good teams without a player or two. Gonzaga won several big games on the last ticks of the clock.
When Akron has had its best team in 2006-2007, the defense was great and the offense had two go-to players in Jeremiah Wood and Romeo Travis. But it didn't have the high-major athleticism to deal with that of Nevada (the only team with NBA talent that Akron played that year). And it certainly didn't have a slither of luck, with Doug Penno's half-court bank shot and the NIT snub.
Last season, the Zips had very little of any of those categories. Akron didn't have the perimeter quickness to keep up with star guards. Jimmy Conyers displayed a high-major skill set, but his defensive abilities were used mostly in the post. Zeke Marshall is a leaper, but he was too thin to be a true impact player. As to the second category, Akron barely had a scorer over 10 points per game. Conyers (10.1 ppg) hardly could be considered a go-to scorer, and Brett McKnight was terrible in the last possessions of games. The third category, defense, was just OK -- not nearly what it should have been. The fourth category, luck, did not help Akron. The Zips ran into a red-hot Bobcats team that even chewed up No. 2 seed Georgetown in the NCAA Tournament.
Why am I rambling about all of this? Because that game was really exciting. And I cannot legitimately focus on homework just yet.
I'm going to blog about recruiting in the next day or so.