HOUSTON -- First of all, none of this Good vs. Evil crap. We're going to hear that storyline in the build-up to the national championship game Monday between UConn and Butler, but it's garbage. It's unseemly, and it's unfair.
Yes, Butler is good. Admirable, honorable, ethical.
No, UConn can't say the same.
Wait. Scratch that. Look at me, doing the exact thing I said I wouldn't tolerate. Jeez, Doyel. You hate it when you're like everyone else. Don't do it now.
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Don't look at UConn coach Jim Calhoun, who was ruled by the NCAA to have overseen a program that was not in compliance with the rulebook, and equate Calhoun to UConn. He's the UConn coach, yes. That's his program. Those are his players.
But that's where my heart goes, at this moment. To the UConn players. See, they haven't done anything wrong. The player who was connected to the rules violations? His name is, well, never mind what his name is. I'm not writing his name, because he's not on the team. He never was on the team, not really. Not during a season. Not for a game. Not even for a practice. OK, fine. His name is Nate Miles. There you go.
But he's not UConn. He was never UConn.
Kemba Walker is UConn. Jeremy Lamb is UConn. Alex Oriakhi. Shabazz Napier. Roscoe Smith. So understand something right now, whether you're a fan or a sportswriter or a radio guy or whatever. If you call this game Good vs. Evil, you're lumping Walker, Lamb, Oriakhi and the rest into the side of evil. You OK with that? Not me.
This is Jim Calhoun's moment, as distasteful as it seems to some -- and it doesn't taste all that good to me either, honestly -- but it's also the moment of his players. Kemba Walker gave this college basketball season something special, pouring in points and adding steals and assists and even, somehow, grabbing 5.3 rebounds per game as a guy who stands his listed height of 6-foot-1 only if he's standing on someone's foot. Along the way Walker has handled himself with the grace and poise that Calhoun says will make him one of the most beloved Huskies ever, right up there with Ray Allen, Rip Hamilton and Emeka Okafor.
You want to deny Walker this moment? Not me. But that won't be the case elsewhere, I'm telling you. The second the UConn-Kentucky game ended Saturday night, literally the second it ended, the sportswriter sitting next to me said sarcastically, "Butler and UConn. Good and Evil. I wonder who America will be rooting for?"
America loves an underdog, so most of America probably will be rooting for Butler. Shoot, you want to know the truth? I'll be rooting for Butler myself. The Bulldogs would be the most unique national champion in the history of NCAA men's revenue sports. Swish that around your mouth for a second, and tell me I'm wrong. Has there been a more unique national champion, in football or men's basketball, than a humble little school from the humble little Horizon League? The answer is no, and it's beyond debate.
So, sure, I'll be rooting for Butler. I'm a storyteller, and Butler is one amazing story. Not that UConn's a bad story, considering the Huskies were presumed to be in rebuilding mode this season with a bunch of freshmen and sophomores, and Kemba Walker. But before this season he was merely a nice player, a guy who averaged 14.6 points per game as a sophomore. He would be the best player on a solid team this season, probably an NIT team, though maybe the Huskies could sneak into the NCAA tournament if they were lucky.
No luck required, as it turns out. The Huskies won the Maui Invitational, beat Texas on the road, won nine games in the Big East -- also lost nine games in the Big East -- and then won the conference tournament. Here they are in the national title game. Thirty-one victories. A great story.
A great story, plus the NCAA probation. That's an ugly smear on this UConn season, no doubt about it. You can't explain away that investigation as a misunderstanding, or throw the blame onto an impressionable young kid like Miles. I'm not going to try.
All I can tell you is this: A bunch of really nice kids from Butler will play a bunch of really nice kids from UConn on Monday night. Brad Stevens of Butler looks like an angel, and might even be one. Jim Calhoun doesn't, and isn't.
This game is bigger than one man. That's my position. Butler and UConn, national championship game, Monday night. Some people -- fans and media alike -- will ruin their own experience by staring all game at the UConn sideline, loathing the head coach and rooting against his team.
Me, I'll root for Butler because I like Butler -- but not because I dislike UConn. Last I checked, UConn was a school, not a man. And neither the school nor the players ever did anything to me. Or to you, come to think of it.