Butler saves the NCAA Tournament again: Horror of First Four replaced by buzzerbeater
Leave it to Butler to save the day. Or at least, everyone's March Madness viewing pleasure.
The NCAA Tournament somehow managed to get off to both its earliest start ever and its slowest start ever this March. The First Four — the contrived setup that squeezes four extra games into the tournament that nobody cares about — seemed to drag the tournament down with its Tuesday start rather than increase interest. The malaise even seemed to extend to the real "first round" tournament sites, with little more than 300 people in the stands for the start of Texas' free open practice at BOK Center in downtown Tulsa (and really what else is there to do in downtown Tulsa on a Thursday afternoon?)
Then, Butler happened again. Bulldogs forward Matt Howard just barely beat the buzzer — and Old Dominion 60-58 — with a layup off a wild scramble for a loose ball to give last year's signature tournament Cinderella one more moment of magic. A cup was thrown onto the floor in Washington D.C. in apparent disgust at the finish, but replays show that Howard clearly had the shot out of his hand before the red light that signals the end of regulation went on.
So last year's tournament runner-up moves on as an eighth seed, setting up a likely matchup with Southeast No. 1 seed Pittsburgh on Saturday. If this year's Butler team has a chance to challenge any of the four No. 1s, it's probably the Panthers too.
But no matter what happens going forward, the Bulldogs have already given the tournament the re-energizing jolt it so desperately needed.
People gathered around TVs at the BOK Center, watching the Butler-Old Dominion finish, and shortly after more people started filing in and screaming for the close of the Longhorns' practice. OK, that had a lot to do with the Texas players throwing T-shirts and souvenirs into the crowd at the urging of their suddenly-relaxed coach, Rick Barnes, but excitement does travel.
Soon after, Morehead State was shocking the Southwest's fourth-seed Louisville, placing the first serious tear in many office pool brackets. But it all started with Butler.