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Tourney wrap: Making sense of the Boise State - Butler comparisons

Butler's run to the NCAA Tournament championship reminded nearly everyone of Boise State's potential run to a BCS title game. But are the two anywhere close to similar?

Most of the major media thinks so. After the jump, find out who's saying what, discuss what you believe, and find out where the truth lies in this discussion. Plus, will the Broncos return to the tourney next year with Leon Rice as coach? Let's discuss.

The Boise State - Butler comparisons

Ivan Maisel, Andy Staples, and Pete Futiak - three of college football's biggest voices - each weighed in with an opinion on Butler - Boise State yesterday. Allow me to tackle them one-by-one.


Someone must have told Graham Watson a Max Hall joke. (via


Ivan Maisel - Are the Broncos the Butler of autumn?

Having spent Monday at Boise State's spring football practice and Monday night presumably at The Ram in downtown Boise being mistaken for Chadd Cripe, Maisel has a rather unique perspective on the Boise State - Butler story.

Let's start with the good. Maisel makes an excellent point in clearing the room of any Cinderella-type comparisons between the two teams. Butler is no George Mason. Boise State is no Hawaii.

Butler began this season in the top 10 because of that accumulation of success. Expectations ran higher and the Bulldogs, who didn't lose from late December until Monday night, met them. A computer may spit out the RPI, but human beings seed the teams. Butler earned a No. 5 seed because of this season and because of the reputation it has built in seasons past.

All but two starters return for Boise State, which, like Butler, will reap the benefit of sustaining success. The Broncos will begin the season in the top five, the college football equivalent to a high seed in the NCAA tournament.

Correctamundo, Mr. Maisel.

(Note: If I were really being my typically cynical self, I would point out that a top five ranking should not be such a given as Maisel makes it seem, especially when one considers historical precedence of non-BCS teams getting jobbed and the previous non-BCS watermark of No. 14 set by Boise State last year.)

If Maisel had stopped there, he would have had me. The comparison of Butler to Boise State from a sustained success perspective is very feasible. Maisel's argument that a Boise State championship run would validate the BCS is not.

Victories in those games (versus VT and OSU) and every other, combined with Boise State's high preseason ranking, may be enough to confirm the Broncos' status as the Butler of autumn. If Boise State runs the table and plays for the crystal football, the structure of the BCS will be validated. Congress will be able to pay full attention to its main task, refusing to cooperate with the opposition. Talk of a playoff may die down.

If - and that is a very big "if" - Boise State gets to the BCS national championship game, it will be a one-time hit in a sea of BCS misses. The thrill of a USC-Texas Rose Bowl title game did not forever justify the infallability of the BCS. Why would a trip from the Broncos do the trick?

If Boise State runs the table and does not play for the crystal football, the shouting and keening -- from playoff proponents in general and Broncos fans in particular -- will make your ears bleed.

Fair enough. But can you imagine the shouting and keening (whatever that means) from fans of one-loss BCS schools if Boise State passes them for a national championship berth? By the time December rolls around, Boise State will be three-to-four months removed from its Virginia Tech game and having just played a nine-game stretch involving every single WAC school plus Toledo. If that is not enough to get them jumped in the polls by other schools (which is exactly what happened in 2009), then it will certainly be enough to raise the ire of fans in places like Florida, Iowa, and USC who may feel like a one-loss team in a BCS conference is more deserving than a no-loss team from the WAC.

Sorry, Ivan Maisel. Boise State slipping into the BCS title game does not fix the BCS. If anything, it might make it worse.


Andy Staples, age 18. (via


Andy Staples - Butler nearly toppled Goliath; now Boise State can finish the job

Sports Illustrated's Andy Staples takes the questionable parts of Ivan Maisel's story and expounds on it to dizzying effect. His thesis: Butler struck a blow for the little guy and Boise State will pick up where the Bulldogs left off.

History and the odds suggest that if Boise State goes undefeated this season, the Broncos will take the field in the same stadium where, five years and nine days earlier, they ran the Statue of Liberty and shocked the college football world.

History? Boise State's run to a national championship would be unprecedented. Nothing like that has ever happened before in college football. Odds? The only odds that are in the Broncos' favor are that they keep getting passed over for big-time opportunities like BCS bowls (2008) and BCS bowls against BCS teams (2009).

Staples goes on to say:

To reach Monday night, the Bulldogs had to face Clemson and Ohio State in the regular season and then beat a No. 1 seed (Syracuse) and a No. 2 seed (Kansas State) in the NCAA tournament.

Not true. Butler did not have to face Clemson and Ohio State in the regular season in order to reach Monday night. All they had to do was win their conference tournament and then they would have controlled their own destiny in getting to the championship game. That is true of any team in NCAA basketball.

On the other hand, Boise State has to play (and beat) Virginia Tech and Oregon State in the regular season to even be considered in the conversation for a BCS title appearance.

Let's imagine we live in a perfect world and college football uses a 16-team playoff to decide a champion. Boise State's only good out-of-conference opponents (Virginia Tech and Oregon State) would be the football equivalents of a No. 3 and a No. 4 seed, respectively. Most of Boise State's WAC colleagues would get smoked by power-conference doormats, and the Broncos don't face the uncertainty of a conference tournament.

I'm not even sure what point he is trying to make here. If there is a 16-team playoff in CFB, then the WAC regular season champion would get an automatic bid. If Boise State cannot win a regular season title in the WAC, then they don't deserve to play for a national championship.

Overall, Staples' point about Butler starting what Boise State will finish rings hollow. The comparisons of little guys sticking it to big guys don't work because in college football you have to be a big guy to even have a chance at sticking it to a big guy. Boise State has done a lot to earn that distinction, but unlike the Bulldogs, the Broncos' fate is not entirely in their hands.


Team Speed Kills - Butler may not be the only mid-major to play for a title this year and The reality check on Boise State

SB Nation's SEC blog, Team Speed Kills, had a discussion with itself over the merits of Boise State getting to the national championship game, a la Butler. From a writing perspective, top-notch. From a Boise State fan's perspective, a mixed bag.

No matter what the national sentiment is, I highly doubt that Boise State is going to play for it all if there are two undefeated major conference teams available. That's what the Broncos have to root for: no more than one AQ conference team matching their unblemished record.

Therein lies one of the greatest problems with the Boise State - Butler comparisons: The Broncos do not control what happens. Very un-Butler-like if you ask me.

Until and unless Boise State schedules good teams (AQ conference and high end MWC squads) in all four or five of its non-conference slots, it's going to have little room to complain about being left out of the national title game.

Sure it sucks that the WAC is terrible and the Pac-10 won't send the Broncos an invite. That's out of BSU's control.

The sentiment shared here is one that gets tossed around a lot for the Broncos. Why don't they schedule tougher teams? And while that is mostly a conversation for another time, let me just say that you are close to crossing the line to an expressly tiered CFB once you start having a double standard with scheduling expectations between BCS and non-BCS schools. Also, no one wants to play the Broncos.

Boise State can always be fresh for its one to three big games each season because it's not getting beat up as badly on a weekly basis.

This has little to do with the Butler - Boise State comparisons, but I just thought I should point out that the Broncos' three toughest games in 2010 are back-to-back-to-back to start the year.


Forehead of champions. (via


Pete Futiak and the CFN guys - Butler's run and a college football playoff

Futiak and friends collaborated on an article sharing different sides to this discussion. Futiak's take? Sensible, followed by irrational.

First of all, please, please, PLEASE don’t pay attention to anyone who tries to equate Butler’s rise up and run to the national title game with anything Boise State has accomplished in football. That appears to be the lazy and easy comparison that some are trying to make now, but it doesn’t do Boise State justice.

Sensible Futiak is spot on when he points out that the Butler - Boise State comparisons are obvious, lazy journalism. While it may be easy pickings for a writer to tackle, the topic is really comparing apples to oranges. Futiak would go a step further and argue that making the comparison is offensive to the Broncos because BSU's sustained success in football is infinitely more difficult than Butler's basketball hot streak.

If he had stopped there, he would have had me. Unfortunately, he went on.

While the BCS is bizarre and needs to be used as a tool that leads and helps determine a fair and just playoff system, in the end, there hasn’t been a totally undeserving fluke holding up the crystal trophy since the poll ‘n’ bowl system was ditched.

There is nothing wrong with what he says ... except that he didn't say enough. The BCS does a good job of finding a team that is worthy of a national championship. That is not the problem. The problem is that the BCS does not provide a fair shake for other schools who are deserving of a national championship.

Futiak's friend Richard Cirminiello centered his argument on the sanctity of the regular season.

Again, taking nothing away from Butler, I’m not exactly in favor of crowning a team that got hot at the right time, caught a break or two along the way, and won five or six straight games. Compelling, yes, but it sort of diminishes the importance of the regular season, doesn’t it?

Funny. Ridiculing the WAC, forgetting the Oregon win ever happened, and back-loading BCS schedules with conference championship games kind of diminishes the importance of CFB's regular season, too. Am I right or am I right, Richard Criminiello?

The CFN family rounds out its take with Matt Zemek's perspective-laced look at how the BCS and March Madness have fared in crowning champs over the last decade. Turns out, CBB may get it right more often than CFB.

What we’re left with is a lot of even results that, in light of football’s national title game controversies (the teams that never got to contest a crown – Miami in the 2001 Orange Bowl; Oregon in the 2002 Rose Bowl; USC and LSU in a 2004 plus-one which never existed; Auburn in the 2005 Orange Bowl; Michigan in the 2007 BCS Championship Game; Texas in the 2009 BCS title game; TCU in the 2010 BCS title game, Boise State in a plus-one with Alabama), give basketball an edge on the very terms football proponents use to claim that pigskin produces elite champions more frequently.


In summary,

  • If anything, Butler is the Boise State of basketball and not the other way around.
  • The Butler - Boise State comparison is tenuous at best, especially when you consider the apples-to-oranges nature of any discussion between CFB and CBB.
  • A Boise State national championship win will not validate the BCS. Please do not go telling your friends this.
  • Assuming that Boise State has earned the same equal opportunity to crash the NC party as Butler has is short-sighted and incomplete. BSU's title game appearance hinges on factors it cannot control (polls, undefeated BCS conference champions, etc.).
What is your take on the Butler - Boise State comparisons? Anything I left out? Anything you disagree with?


Will Leon Rice get Bronco basketball back to the Big Dance?

The Broncos' new coaching hire appears to be a hit. Coming over from Gonzaga, Rice has as much cachet as any coach from any other BCS conference school short of North Carolina or Duke. He has made some stellar assistant-coaching hires. He has attempted to patch things up with future Bronco star Ben Mills.

If Leon Rice turns out to be the Chris Petersen of college basketball, Boise State will be in great shape.

Also helping the Broncos be in great shape is this: Three of its best players return next season and the Broncos will field a starting five high on experience. Those who are back in 2010:

  • F Daequon Montreal - the only Bronco player to make an all-conference team
  • F Robert Arnold - the Broncos' best player down the stretch
  • G La'Shard Anderson
  • F Paul Noonan
  • G Westly Perryman
  • G Justin Salzwedel
  • C Zack Moritz

The majority of the above players will be seniors in 2010, meaning that the Broncos could turn in a great season in Rice's first year at the helm.

Do you think that Boise State has what it takes to win the WAC and get back to the NCAA Tournament?

OBNUG Tournament Pick 'Em wrap-up

A wild, upset-filled NCAA Tourney left carnage and embarrassment in its wake. It turns out the key to victory: Only watching two games all year.

1 Watched 2 Games All Year, M. Kingery 1280
2 bdell27 1, b. wardell 1250
3 the collinator, C. Zenor 1200
4 7398Jacob 1, J. Hammond 1140
5 NLeonard533 3, N. Leonard 1130
6 I'm feeling jambly, J. Thayer 1120
7 How many picks can u have, T. Dalling 1110
8 I'm Rocking On Yr Dime, J. Shelton 1040
9 JRig, J. Rigby 1000
10 In the Peach Basket, z. price 940

Updated 4/6 8:00 a.m.
Complete standings

Congratulations to M. Kingery, who correctly picked Duke as his national champion and who successfully avoided taking Gonzaga too far or leaning on me and Drew for advice. Kingery picked five of the Elite Eight and two of the Final Four to finish with a flurry. Condolences to bdell27 and the collinator for brackets that fell just short.

Speaking of brackets falling short, mine did when Georgetown, my national champion of choice, was knocked out in the first round. I finished a laughable 167th, and Drew finished a slightly worse 171st. But really, who's counting after No. 150?

Don't you all feel good knowing you get your Bronco news from a couple of guys who bomb so badly in picking winners?

Your turn

What do you make of the Butler - Boise State comparisons? Think the Broncos are poised for a Tourney run in 2011? Have a fun story to share about OBNUG's Tournament Pick 'Em? Let's hear it in the comments.