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The Beautiful Bulldogs

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If we could have a basketball wish, we'd probably ask for courtside seats to three or four Butler games, because while you can see a certain amount from TV, you can't see everything. On TV, Butler looks slow and sometimes clunky. But they're just so damn smart and tough.

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Duke fans saw that in the title game in 2010, and the rest of the country has gotten used to it as well.

Still, by any standard, they were very impressive against Indiana.

You may remember recently that we said Ken Pomeroy's statistical analysis couldn't judge Duke's end-of-game play, because Duke is usually tougher at the end than the other team. That's absolutely true for Butler as well.

If you can't go into the last few minutes with a reasonable lead, they're very likely to gut you before you know what happened.

It happened again against #1 Indiana. Although the Hoosiers had some brilliant play at the end too, Butler just out-smarted and out-toughed them.

What we don't fully understand is how they do it. Obviously they're extraordinarily well-coached. But they always seem to get a shot when they need one, or a steal. Like Duke, they rebound very well at the end.

And they're not immensely talented.

Our guess is that a lot of the magic for Butler comes from superb scouting and filmwork. They know exactly what each player is likely to do and they're ready for whatever system they face.

Whatever it is, they're very compelling and they're not going away. A few years ago, this would have sounded bizarre, but now it seems inevitable: it's just a question of time before the Bulldogs win the national championship.

The program is that good.