One year ago, they were a half-court prayer away from being the National Champions. When the final shot missed against the widely-loathed Duke Blue Devils, the miracle run was over. This year, Butler has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that the term "miracle run" has no place in describing what they have accomplished.
Sure, the Bulldogs may be happy to be in the Final (again), but they're not "happy to be here." No, Monday night is Butler's shot at redemption.
College basketball fans certainly don't look at it that way. For many, it's simply a nice story. Two impressive runs by the new darling of all Mid-Majors. Sure, they may not win the title, but hey, those kids fought hard and it will be interesting to see how they do in the future.
That's clearly not how coach Brad Stevens or any of the Butler players look at it. They expected to be here. It was all part of the plan. Butler makes a habit of knocking off highly-ranked teams, and their 2011 run to the Final Four has been no different. You won't find a more focused, disciplined group than the Bulldogs. You won't find teams more prepared when it's tip-off time. Not even from teams coached by Roy Williams, Mike Krzyzewski, Bill Self, Billy Donovan, Tom Izzo, or even Stevens' counterpart in the Title Game, UConn coach Jim Calhoun.
Butler's charge now? Cash it in.
Despite the team's best efforts, casual fans will still look upon them as a feel-good story. It's all right in front of Butler to write an important chapter in the history of college basketball. A National Champion Mid-Major would not change the basketball world, but it could change the way we think of the Tournament entrants, and the entry process.
March Madness is certainly not broken. It is arguably the most exciting sporting event in the country, and it doesn't need a makeover. But a win by Butler on Monday night could lead to changes, however subtle or significant.