CREDIT BUTLER; DON'T FORGET THE KSU SEASON

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Painful, it was, but also with the understanding that, on this day, one team played better than the other. As Curtis Kelly said after K-State's loss to Butler on Saturday, "They were great, we were bad." And with that 63-56 K-State loss to the Bulldogs, the Wildcats' record-setting season ends at 29-8.

I called my 90-year-old mom on Sunday and was asked "how," "why," "what happened?"

Trying to put it in terms she could understand, I just said, "Sometimes you burn the chicken." Even for the best of cooks, sometimes the cake falls in the middle.

Taking 24 hours to digest the 63-56 loss to Butler in the Elite Eight round of the NCAA's West Regional, it's no more complex than to say that the Bulldogs played exactly like they have all year, and the Wildcats did not.

It's ironic that Butler all season long won games by an average score of 69-59, won this one 63-56. K-State, which won games by average score of 80-70, and with 23 games of at least 80 points, scored just 56 points.

Butler, winners of 24 games in a row, is a team that has now allowed 45, 59, 52, 59 and 56 points in its four NCAA games, plus the title game of the Horizon tournament. Those points allowed against teams that averaged 66, 75, 78, 81 and 80 points per game.

Sitting courtside, K-State seemed it played tight – had to win, expected to win; while Butler – a mid-major, a Horizon League member – played with nothing to lose.

Butler was the slower team that played a step faster; the Bulldogs were not as athletic, but earned the 50-50 loose balls 80 percent of the time.

Even K-Stater Dominique Sutton said, "They wanted it more."

Now, that is tough to explain. On that stage, on the verge of arguably the most significant win in any sport in K-State history, how the Wildcats' "want to" would not be there.

Did the Big 12 No. 7 ranked Wildcats coming from a school of 23,000-plus subconsciously look past a team named "Butler" and a school of 4,200 students from a non-BCS Conference? One can only wonder.

One can wonder the same about a No. 1 ranked Kansas team that played bored against Northern Iowa the week before, and lost; one can only wonder about a No. 1 seeded Syracuse team that was listless against the same Butler team on Thursday night, and lost.

What these last two weeks have proven is this: the best team doesn't always win; the best athlete does not always out-play the most fundamental athlete; there's talent at the mid-major level; and, just because you're not making $2 million, you can still be a darn good coach with a $350,000 salary.

It's only time to give credit to Butler. The better team did not win, but the better team on that day did win.

It's the hope here that the dream season of the "Hoosiers" continues for Butler with another pair of wins in their home city at the Final Four.

It's also the hope here that K-State's greatest single season in history won't be forgotten. Twenty-nine wins, No. 2 in the Big 12, runner-up in the Big 12 Championships, a top 10 national team, and, within a game, a single victory, of the Final Four.


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