Everyone loves the Cinderella this time of year. All of a sudden, people who previously didn't even know what the initials VCU stood for will find themselves cheering loudly for the Rams of Virginia Commonwealth University in their attempts to beat Florida State and reach the Elite 8. The same can be said of Butler University, a school that's transforming into a mid-major name after claiming the Cinderella title in recent seasons and making the NCAA tournament the last five years.
Butler Head Coach Brad Stevens is going to be a hot commodity after this year and could be linked to possible job leads in Missouri or Tennessee among others, but the task before him might be a bit too much after upending the top seed Pittsburgh in an unbelievable finale last weekend. Everyone will remember last year's nail-biter of a loss against Duke and believe that Butler is capable of anything, but Wisconsin provides the sort of match-up that works against Butler's magical March runs.
The reason is that Wisconsin is the steady opponent that continues to win year after year. Consider them the Utah Jazz of the Big Ten, with Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan playing the role of Jerry Sloan. Players come and go, but Wisconsin continues to play a disciplined style of basketball that makes the Sweet 16 every other year or so over the last decade. It's not memorable, but it works and this year's Wisconsin team is deep.
Most importantly, there are no misfires with Jordan Taylor and Jon Leuer. There are no last-minute, make-you-scream fouls that will end this match-up. Instead, it will be Wisconsin's notoriously stingy defense placing pressure on Matt Howard and company to deliver on the few open shots they'll get. It's a workmanlike persona that both teams can relate to, and yet Butler seems to thrive on the big match-up and taking down the towering opponent. Yet there's no pomp and circumstance about this Wisconsin team -- where even the "stars" are only regionally recognized.
To say Butler cannot win would be a major mistake, given the roll that Butler is on in NCAA tournament play. Perhaps sheer luck or destiny is on their side after watching that Pitt match-up. But the emotional momentum has to run out sometime and it's usually in a grinding game like Wisconsin brings that the balloon is deflated. That's likely what will take place tonight.