Bill Simmons’ Ewing Theory is a simple one; when a team loses a long time star, the team that remains will play better because the media has written them off and the game opens up to everyone.
Just like when the New York Knicks reached the 1999 NBA Finals after Patrick Ewing’s achilles’ injury or the Tennessee Volunteers winning it all the year after Peyton Manning was drafted, the Butler Bulldogs are doing some serious damage after losing last year’s team leader, Gordon Hayward.
On February 3, Butler was .500 in their conference and a mediocre 14-9 overall. Since then, head coach Brad Stevens has led a vivacious group of upperclassmen not only to 13 straight victories, but to the Final Four for the second consecutive year.
All of this is without Hayward, who was drafted ninth overall in last year’s NBA Draft.
What Butler does have is a classic example of the whole being more than the sum of its parts. While Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack are doing a lot of the scoring, both have committed near game losing mistakes in this tournament. But no matter what happens, their teammates seem to always come through.
Maybe it’s my mid-major bias showing, or maybe it’s my love for Brad Stevens’ saber metric-like approach.
Whatever it is, I will be rooting for Butler to win one for the little guys.
There’s nothing more American than eating hot dogs on the Fourth of July or celebrating freedom on the other 364 days. But the ultimate demostration of the American way is to root for the underdog.
This season has given the fans more than they could ask for. Eighth seeded Butler and 11th seeded Virginia Commonwealth will play to be the most surprising team in the title game since Villanova’s appearance in 1985.
But forgotten in all of this is Player of the Year candidate Kemba Walker and his UConn Huskies. Lost in Jimmermania is an incredibly consistent and lightning quick guard with a penchant for the limelight.
Spearheading a team that is undefeated in neutral site games, Walker’s Huskies started unranked and quickly surged into the top-ten after they came up big at the Maui Invitational. And after underwhelming regular season showing, the spotlights and allure of Madison Square Garden brought out the best in Walker.
The nastiest jumper of the year throughout all of basketball was his step back game winner in the quarters against Pitt supplanted him in Big East lore forever.
The Final Four is not for the faint of heart. Butler’s experience should guide them, but the speed of Kemba Walker and the physical inside presence for the Huskies should over power the Bulldogs.