Duke Vs. Butler? Think ‘Nebraska'

Waiting for the tipoff of the Duke-Butler game for the 2009-10 NCAA men's basketball championship has me thinking about...Nebraska. That's because if Nebraska had beaten Texas in the Big XII football championship game, Alabama would have been playing the BCS Championship Game in the Rose Bowl against Cincinnati.

Alabama would have been the team everyone would want to see lose. With Texas as the opponent, there wasn't a national hate factor in the game. Alabama vs. Texas matched two of the half dozen or so truly big-time, traditional football teams. A record number of viewers tuned in to watch a good football game, most of those millions having only a passing interest in which team won.

Tonight, all the nation is Butler Bulldogs Bonkers. Everyone loves a Cinderella story, and Butler beating Duke would certainly quality. Most people have forgotten that Butler was a preseason Top Ten team, making this less a mismatch than the old David-Goliath cliché.

(And remember Nick Saban chiding the television announcers about making the BCS National Championship Game David vs. Goliath?)

So what if the nation had been all for Cincinnati (or Boise State or TCU of whichever of those so-called mid-majors might have supplanted Texas in the championship game in Pasadena? It would not have affected the outcome. Just as it will not affect the outcome in the NCAA men's basketball championship game. It's not a coincidence that the lasty 20 or so NCAA men's basketball crowns have been one by a team from one of the basketball power conferences.

But no one wants to be hated.

Duke vs. Butler is not a no-win situation, just as it would not have been a no-win situation if the Crimson Tide had been playing the Cincinnati Bearcats. When the national championship is on the line there is plenty to win, and eventually the loser would have faded into oblivion, just one of 14 scalps on the 13th national championship totem pole.

That's different than in the 2008 season, when Alabama's loss in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game to Florida had been the de facto national championship elimination contest. Bama went to the Sugar Bowl and had an awful performance against a Utah team that had motivation to burn.

It's easy to understand human nature that has almost everyone (Duke fans and the fans of whatever school might be Butler's big rival the exceptions) hoping the Blue Devils go down. But as one of the haves, Alabama football fans should appreciate the position of Duke basketball.

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