Northwestern, oddly enough, cannot be the NCAA men's basketball champion this year. Pity.
Last year, we were almost able to do the next best thing: beat a team that goes on to be the national champion, when Michigan State (who we beat) went up against North Carolina, and got... what's the word... ahh, yes, reamed.
This year, no such luck. However, we're guaranteed to do the 86th next best thing besides winning the national championship: have a team we lost to play in the national championship game, as Michigan State and Butler were both on the NU slate, and, well, we didn't come close to beating either of them. Choosing who I want to win this game is like choosing between my children, assuming I didn't like any of my children, but liked each of them more than Duke, so, I figured I'd refresh our memories to help us decide what Sippin on Purple's official pick would be.
November 18, vs. No. 10 Butler: It was only our second game of the season. This was back when Kevin Coble was out for 6-8 weeks, and Jeff Ryan had just gotten injured a game ago. We were in "oh crap" mode, and it showed, as we kinda sorta kept it close at first, but the Bulldogs - who, despite being half our size, had about a 100 person cheering section at our home game, so, there goes the "but our school is small!" argument - pulled away, opening up a 20 point lead after a 20-6 run to start the second half. Gordon Hayward had a double double, which is what he do.
January 2nd, vs. No. 11 Michigan State: This was the coup de grace genitals punch on a week that featured a come-from-ahead overtime loss @ Illinois and the Outback Bowl. I watched in a crowded Tampa sports bar as the remaining NU folks in the area gathered to watch the No. 25 Wildcats (pffffffffffffft couldn't say that with a straight face) play their second game of the millenium as a ranked team, in a battle of ranked opponents against Michigan State. It was at home, but somehow the athletic department managed to give away enough tickets to make a game with no student sections look full, but they probably shouldn't have, because it wasn't NU's finest effort. The Cats got out-athleted for 40 straight minutes. Great game for fans of opposing alley-oops. As was the case in all of these games, NU didn't look horrific early, then the jets turned on and the opposition pulled it away, making this a 20-pointer early in the second half. John Shurna had 29, but nobody else, save Alex Marcotullio, did anything. Note this, cuz it's a trend.
January 30th, @ No. 5 Michigan State: It was only a two-point game at the half, but the out-athleting thing went on again.John Shurna had 31. He also nearly got murdered to death by Chris Allen. We lost.
So that's that. We didn't really compete against any of these teams, save maybe the second game against MSU, which we ended up only losing by nine. I've got Big Ten pride and the fact we played them twice (yeah, who said something about us having a terrible RPI? Oh, everybody? I'll shut up then.)telling me to root for the Spartans, but Butler's a much more feel good story. Looks like I'll have to bust out a more precise measuring system.
Mascot: Sorry, Spartan is a way more badass mascot than a Bulldog, considering it's a Greek killing machine/human, while a Bulldog could never possibly be incarnated by Gerard Butler, who, now that I think of it, is probably the namesake of Butler University. A phalanx could also probably murder all 4,000 Gerard Butler University in under an hour, while a herd of Bulldogs would take years, if not decades, to kill everybody at MSU, and by that time, a lot of them would have graduated. Be less generic next time, Butler. Point, MSU.
Coach: Of all the coaches I interviewed this season, Brad Stevens was by far the most adorable. (<------ this sentence is one of 4,000 things I've written on this blog that will ensure I am never employed by a reputable publication) Point, Butler.
Players: If there's one thing I hate, it's the Gordon Hayward player archetype, which may or may not include John Shurna, at least when that archetype doesn't play for Northwestern. Butler guns too much for them to be a college team I like, I need dominant athletes to get behind a squad in college. Point, MSU
How close we came to beating them: Well, didn't really do that for either. Push.
General Unlikableness: MIchigan State is one of the schools I'm most indifferent towards in the Big Ten, but still, the amount of hatred I bear even towards the most mild schools in the Big 11 doesn't compete with Butler, who I merely dislike because they have the whole "Indiana is the greatest basketball state in the world!" vibe going on. At the end of the day they're a small school, and I sorta have to pull for them. Point, Butler
Likelihood of 'ship-winning: Probably Butler, although I could see MSU putting up a hell of a fight against West Virginia if they beat Duke. Point, Butler
and now, the only metric which I'm actually interested in, Likelihood of fan insufferability of they bring home the ship: Butler would just be kinda sweet if they won. It would be a feel good story. But MSU fans? After going to the final game in two straight years? I don't want to think about it.
As much as I'm supposed to rock Big Televen Pride, let's be real. The teams of the conference we follow has enough banners hanging already to lord over us, while Hinkle Fieldhouse is just waiting for one. It would be pretty awesome to actually see a mid-major do damage like this, so, holler at your boy, Horizon League!
Game is at 5:07. Go Bulldogs, I guess. (Kinda.)