Sunday, April 4, 2010

A Final Like No Other ... Well, Almost

When Butler and Duke take the court for college basketball's championship game tomorrow night, it will be unique in the annals of the NCAA.

But it won't be entirely unique. Milan High School, a small school in Indiana, took on a powerful big school from a big city and defeated it in the state championship game back in the 1950s — inspiring the film "Hoosiers" three decades later and inviting comparisons to Butler University this year.

Butler, after all, is from Indiana. It plays its games in the same fieldhouse where Milan won its title — and where "Hoosiers" was filmed.

That, however, is where the apparent similarities end.

Butler is not tiny — at least not in the same way that Milan was. In fact, while it is smaller than Duke, Butler's enrollment is not dwarfed by Duke's the way it was by Michigan State's, its semifinal foe yesterday.

To be sure, though, Butler — making only its first–ever Final Four appearance — is far smaller in terms of its basketball achievements. Duke has won three national titles and has been in more than a dozen Final Fours.

When looked at from that perspective, this is obviously a David vs. Goliath kind of match. And Goliath got things going by being installed as a 6½–point favorite.

My guess is that it will attract TV ratings that far exceed those for previous championship games. After all, it's got all the drama of the movie — with the added benefit of being the real thing, not an imitation. Right?

Well, not exactly, says Joe Posnanski for "The one thing that is important to get straight, right off the top: Butler is not that great a story," Posnanski writes. "That's not a knock — it's the opposite of a knock. Butler is a very good basketball team. They're not some perplexing phenomenon."

Indeed. The Bulldogs did not come out of nowhere. They were ranked when the season began. But they don't play in a major conference, so they don't get anything close to the TV time that tomorrow night's opponent does.

They inhabit different galaxies, these two teams. They've established themselves as masters of their domains. And tomorrow night, one of them will rule the college basketball universe.

With Tiger Woods making his much–anticipated return to competitive golf in this week's Masters Tournament, it could be a blockbuster week for CBS.

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