Brad Stevens has almost become desensitized to the magic he himself has conjured up at Butler.
Arms folded with a face inexpressive, Stevens looked on stoically as his team pulled a new trick out of its hat in front of an awestruck national audience. The Bulldogs, contesting college basketball’s version of the QB kneel-down, turned what should have been an academic ending into something of a legend. The type of legend Butler is living multiple times over, these days.
Trailing by one with 3.5 seconds showing on the clock—Gonzaga lined up in victory formation, set to in-bound from midcourt with another résumé ornament in its grasp—Butler triggered a bizarre sequence that may as well have been a deleted scene from “Hoosiers.” Roosevelt Jones intercepted a careless in-bounds lob towards the middle of the floor, raced toward the Butler basket and flicked off one of his trademark runners in the lane just as the buzzer sounded.
Stevens knew the outcome without even having to follow the flight of the ball. The deadpan head coach has seen this act before, all too often. In fact, he’s the secret behind the trick.
To the scores of casual college hoops fans catching a glimpse of Butler for the first time, Jones’ sleight of hand was Houdini-esque. To Stevens, or anyone familiar with Butler’s modus operandi, it was just a normal day at the office for a team that specializes in normalizing the abnormal.
Saturday at Hinkle was the third time this season the Bulldogs walked off with a signature win in the closing seconds, but just the first time in program history it knocked off three Top 10 opponents in one campaign. With little more than a half-season in the books, Stevens and Butler are on the positive end of the three best finishes in college hoops this year. Here’s a special mention to Marquette, Indiana and most recently Gonzaga for assisting the Horizon League transplant into the archives.