Butler fans hoop it up
Butler fans had a homegrown party Saturday, about five miles from Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis and the Final Four.
With ribbons tied around trees and street posts, blue-clad students, parents and alumni started lining up outside historic Hinkle Fieldhouse for a viewing party more than 2 1/2 hours before tipoff between the Bulldogs and Michigan State. Several thousand were inside as the game began and they got a thrill as Butler outlasted the Spartans, 52-50.
Water fountains on the small campus were dyed blue, and Greek organizations had plenty of signs up.
“Let’s win this one for all the small schools that never had the chance to get here,” read one sign, quoting a line uttered in “Hoosiers” before underdog Hickory High wins the Indiana basketball state title in a movie version of Milan High’s victory in the 1954 championship.
Fans were hoping to get a glimpse of their favorite players after Saturday’s game — win or lose.
“Oh yeah, the Bulldogs always come home,” said freshman Stephanie Hodgin, who brought two friends and a picnic lunch for three.
First in line outside the fieldhouse was sophomore Stephanie Chevrant, who arrived early enough for Friday’s practice to get a front-row seat in the Final Four venue. Without a ticket to the game, Chevrant made sure nobody would keep her out of Hinkle’s viewing party, either.
Two high school students from Coach Brad Stevens’ alma mater, Zionsville, arrived with lawn chairs to help their parents, Butler alums.
“We’re just holding a spot for them,” Ellen Hoskins said.
The biggest names in basketball are rubbing elbows in Indianapolis hotel lobbies this weekend.
At a downtown restaurant Thursday, Kentucky Coach John Calipari dined at a table next to Dick Vitale.
Everywhere you turn in town you see a famous face: Bill Walton, Danny Manning, John Thompson.
The man who got the most double-takes in the Marriott lobby Friday, however, was a baseball player: Sandy Koufax.
Koufax, of course, was a Hall of Fame pitcher for the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers. But his love for basketball goes back to his college days at Cincinnati, where he was a freshman walk-on for Ed Jucker’s Bearcats.
Koufax’s decision to stay with baseball worked out well.
Duke versus West Virginia featured two Final Four father-and-son combinations.
West Virginia reserve guard Jonnie West’s dad, Jerry, played in the 1959 Final Four. And Duke guard Nolan Smith’s father, Derek, played for Louisville in 1980.
Other Final Four father-son combinations included Bill and Luke Walton, Scott and Sean May, Henry and Mike Bibby, Marques and Kris Johnson and Bob and Pat Knight.
The NCAA said 71,298 spectators attended the Final Four games at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, the second-highest total ever.
The number trails only the 72,456 who turned out last year for the Final Four at Ford Field in Detroit.
A year ago, North Carolina beat Michigan State in front of a championship-game record 72,922.