Butler! UConn! ‘One Shining Moment!’ We’re chatting live!

This is how my first Final Four ended. Kind of boring, really. (NCAA photos)

How my first Final Four ended. Kind of boring. (NCAA photos)

It was 1983 in Albuquerque and I was scared to death. It was my first Big Event — I was working for the Lexington Herald-Leader — and I got to The Pit on Final Four Saturday convinced I was the worst writer in the building if not in history. And then the man sitting next to me on the seventh level of press row said, as a team nicknamed the Bulldogs was about to face N.C. State in the first semi, “Georgia — they’re from the SEC, aren’t they?”

And I thought to myself: “OK, second-worst.”

The Final Four, as you might know, is my favorite thing to cover, but not being there –  I haven’t been to one since Memphis blew the title in San Antonio in 2008 — doesn’t bother me as much as I’d have thought. I’ve done 20 of them. If I never do another, that’s enough for anyone. And my first few pretty much spoiled me.

1983: The Jim Valvano/Lorenzo Charles/Phil Slamma Jamma title game, preceded by the only slightly less great Houston-Louisville dunkathon semifinal.

1985: Villanova makes 78.6 percent of its shots in the final — and wins by two. It’s my belief that Villanova’s performance was the greatest in championship game history; it’s also my belief that Georgetown’s was the second best.

1986: Louisville trails the whole game but runs down Duke at the end. Pervis Ellison of Savannah is the MVP.

1987: Derrick Coleman misses a free throw; Keith Smart hits a jumper from the left wing; Indiana wins.

The total margin of victory in the first four NCAA championship games I witnessed firsthand was nine points. (Louisville blew out Duke by three in ‘86.) I saw some great ones after that — North Carolina-Michigan in 1993; Arkansas-Duke in 1994, Arizona-Kentucky in 1997; Kentucky-Utah in 1998; UConn-Duke in 1999; Syracuse-Kansas in 2003; North Carolina-Illinois in 2005; the aforementioned Kansas-Memphis in 2008 — but my first four Final Fours remain my favorites. Because I was younger and less jaded.

About tonight’s title tilt: I like both teams. A lot of writers who cover him on a daily basis don’t care for Jim Calhoun, but I’ve always admired his program. (I admire it a bit less after it got caught cheating, but I’m not quite as judgmental as in my youth.) And Butler …

Admit it. When Gordon Hayward’s halfcourt banker kicked away last year, you thought, “That’s as close as that program will ever come to a national title.” Lo and behold, Butler is back. And I kind of think it’ll win tonight. Which means it won’t. So there.

And with that, I’ll open the figurative floor for questions, comments and predictions as to what scripted utterance Jim Nantz will uncork if the underdog should prevail. Surely “The Butler did it!” is too obvious. My nomination:

“One Butler wins the Grammy, and now another Butler is national champ!”

See, Win Butler is the main mover in Arcade Fire, which won Album of the Year for “The Suburbs.” Too obscure? Probably. How about this?

“Frankly, UConn, this Butler doesn’t give a darn!”

Rhett Butler. “Gone With The Wind.” Ask your mom. It’s her favorite movie. (I know it’s my mom’s favorite.)

OK, enough. Join me as we await the newest from the Nantzman. As we choke up in spite of ourselves over “One Shining Moment.” As yet another champion is crowned. I might not be the best at this live-chat thing, but at least I know Georgia’s conference affiliation.

By Mark Bradley

213 comments Add your comment

Brandon from Warner Robins

April 4th, 2011
8:58 pm

I would have loved to see a Duke Butler rematch.

Mark Bradley

April 4th, 2011
8:59 pm

I would have, too, Brandon. But we can’t always get what we want, as Rhett Butler once said. (Or maybe that was Mick Jagger.)

Brandon from Warner Robins

April 4th, 2011
9:03 pm

I think Butler wins it. By 8.

Desperation on the Ave

April 4th, 2011
9:05 pm

What time does Georgia Tech tip off tonight??

D A DoubleU G

April 4th, 2011
9:06 pm

UGA will be in this game in 2013

:)

juvenal

April 4th, 2011
9:06 pm

rats!close again!agree with Cowherd, gotta wurk in the am, boycotting like i do the series, will watch(in person) when GT is in…….

juvenal

April 4th, 2011
9:07 pm

D A-luv u man, but that is so (typically) delusional…..

Deb

April 4th, 2011
9:09 pm

Butler by 3…. Make all of Indiana proud of you amazing young men!!!!

Mark Bradley

April 4th, 2011
9:09 pm

Speaking of the Stones: CBS just played a slice of “Gimme Shelter,” from the LP “Let It Bleed,” which also yielded “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”

Brandon from Warner Robins

April 4th, 2011
9:09 pm

Mark,

which one liner does Jim Nantz use? “_______ is the top dogs!” or “Houston we have a champion!”

Mark Bradley

April 4th, 2011
9:10 pm

And we’ve got the severe storm warnings. Wouldn’t be spring without them.

BobDawg

April 4th, 2011
9:11 pm

Taping it so I can watch it when there is no “commotion”….. Gotta luv family but this is HUGE!!!! Sorry, Larry Munson….

Mark Bradley

April 4th, 2011
9:11 pm

“No Dogs in this fight!”

juvenal

April 4th, 2011
9:11 pm

Mark-all Rhett said wuz, didn’t gve a……..also on greatest hits….

BobDawg

April 4th, 2011
9:12 pm

Mark, does the Butler coach end up at IU in 3 years???

Mark Bradley

April 4th, 2011
9:12 pm

Perhaps sooner, BobDawg.

Brandon from Warner Robins

April 4th, 2011
9:12 pm

im just waiting for a Kemba Walker Texas Ranger heading into a time out….

Mark Bradley

April 4th, 2011
9:13 pm

Calhoun says “quite frankly” all the time.

BobDawg

April 4th, 2011
9:13 pm

Nice, Brandon!!!!

Brandon from Warner Robins

April 4th, 2011
9:14 pm

Mark,

If Calhoun and company win tonight, does he step aside?

BobDawg

April 4th, 2011
9:14 pm

Does Calhoun leave after this game and leave the program to the NCAA wardens???

NRBQ

April 4th, 2011
9:14 pm

Mark,
Who’s coming to Augusta? You, Jeff, or just Hummer (bummer)?

Brandon from Warner Robins

April 4th, 2011
9:16 pm

20 years ago Duke upset UNLV in the Final Four, i think another upset happens tonight.

Mel

April 4th, 2011
9:18 pm

I’m a Duke fan, but I will be rooting for Butler tonight! They deserve it.

Brandon from Warner Robins

April 4th, 2011
9:21 pm

whens the tournament coming back to atlanta?

Mark Bradley

April 4th, 2011
9:21 pm

I’ll be in Augusta for Rounds 1 and 2. It’s a tradition unlike any other, I’ve heard.

Mark Bradley

April 4th, 2011
9:22 pm

Final Four’s here in two years. Regional’s here next year.

Mark Bradley

April 4th, 2011
9:23 pm

New Castle, Ind.: Home of Kent Benson and Steve Alford, to name two NCAA champs.

Brandon from Warner Robins

April 4th, 2011
9:24 pm

Is Alford still coaching at New Mexico?

Will

April 4th, 2011
9:25 pm

Matt Howard will dominate Uconn’s front line they have not seen a team that plays this good of defense!!

Mark Bradley

April 4th, 2011
9:25 pm

Yes he is, Brandon.

Mark Bradley

April 4th, 2011
9:26 pm

Doug Shows of Rome, Ga., is reffing the game.

Not my favorite ref, I should note.

BYRDDAWG

April 4th, 2011
9:27 pm

GO DAWGS!!!!

Brandon from Warner Robins

April 4th, 2011
9:29 pm

Steve Kerr has been an excellent addition to the CBS broadcast.

Mark Bradley

April 4th, 2011
9:30 pm

Jim Nantz is hyperventilating, it sounds.

Brandon from Warner Robins

April 4th, 2011
9:31 pm

I got a hardy chuckle at that one Mark.

so what do you make of the Calipari back to the NBA “rumor”?

Mark Bradley

April 4th, 2011
9:32 pm

Fairly impressive block by Andrew Smith. And now we stop for 2 1/2 minutes for CBS to sell products.

Trevinb

April 4th, 2011
9:32 pm

Great sports week! I will look for you in Augusta on Friday. First pimento cheese sandwich is on me.

Mark Bradley

April 4th, 2011
9:32 pm

Let’s let Calipari win an NCAA title first. Doesn’t have one yet. Might get one next year.

Mark Bradley

April 4th, 2011
9:33 pm

I’ll have to settle for pimento cheese on Friday. It’s Lent. I’m Catholic.

D A DoubleU G

April 4th, 2011
9:33 pm

the 3-pointer has ruined basketball.

And I am only 23, not your grandfather talking about how Kareem dazzled with his sky-hook in the paint.

Mark Bradley

April 4th, 2011
9:34 pm

The 3-pointer has changed the game, not always for the good.

Brandon from Warner Robins

April 4th, 2011
9:37 pm

seems like Butler’s settling for the 3. never a good thing.

D A DoubleU G

April 4th, 2011
9:38 pm

In 2013, will the Georgia dome follow the trend of putting the in the center like the recent football stadiums to host the Final Four? Or are we going to do the ridiculous side court we have done for every other basketball event in the dome?

Mark Bradley

April 4th, 2011
9:38 pm

Don’t believe UConn can win without Kemba scoring.

Mark Bradley

April 4th, 2011
9:39 pm

Pretty sure it can’t, truth be told.

Trevinb

April 4th, 2011
9:39 pm

Is lack of offense good defense or nervousness? I hope things settle down.

Mark Bradley

April 4th, 2011
9:40 pm

I think it’s both, Trevinb.

D A DoubleU G

April 4th, 2011
9:40 pm

Butler looking like Duke in style.

How many 3’s have they put up so far? 10? 12?

Will

April 4th, 2011
9:40 pm

The old phantom foul on Walker yeah right.