College basketball and Indiana just go together. When we think of places where basketball is king over all other sports, Indiana and Kentucky are probably the first two places that come to mind. When one thinks of Indiana basketball there are some images that immediately come to mind as well. Bob Knight, Larry Bird, Reggie Miller, and Gene Hackman are Indiana basketball. Why Gene Hackman? Because he was the star of the movie “Hoosiers” which as based on a true story about a tiny high school winning the Indiana State Championship. The final scene of that classic was shot at Hinkle Field House in Indianapolis, the home of the Butler Bulldogs.
How fitting is it that one of the great underdog movies was shot at the home of one of the great real life underdogs? After all, Butler is the king of the Cinderellas. The Bulldogs made it to consecutive National Championship Games in 2010 and 2011 where they gave traditional basketball powers Duke and UConn all they could handle. In fact, had Gordon Heyward’s buzzer beater against the Blue Devils not rimmed out it would possibly have been a bigger moment in NCAA Tournament history than Christian Laettner over Kentucky in 1992.
Butler has now emerged as the best college basketball team in the state, even over IU and Purdue of the powerful Big Ten Conference. The Bulldogs had been to only one NCAA Tournament before 1997. They have now been to 12. In 2000, they were beaten on a Mike Miller buzzer beater in the first round loss to the eventual national runner-up Florida Gators. At the time it would have been considered a major upset over a big time school. 10 seasons later the Bulldogs came from behind to knock the Gators out of the Elite Eight in overtime and it was not considered much of an upset at all. That is how far this program has come.
The Boston Celtics, one of the most storied franchises in all of sports hired the coach of those two Final Four teams in Brad Stevens. That is an indication of how successful Butler Basketball is now.
Hinkle Field House opened in 1928. It seats over 11,000 fans for Butler home games. If there is a better place to watch a game in the country, you better go there. But be sure to come back to Hinkle to catch a Bulldogs game. This place is dripping in history. From the movie to all the great Butler games and all the great high school games, this place is basketball.
The Bulldogs now play in the Big East Conference, which is also steeped in history. This means the home schedule of the Bulldogs rivals any in the nation. Indiana State, Tennessee, Purdue and all of the great Big East teams such as Villanova, Georgetown, St. John’s, Providence, Creighton and Xavier will visit this season.
A Bulldogs game at Hinkle Field House is a visit to college basketball when it was all about going to the game and cheering for the Bulldogs and not about fancy scoreboards and laser light shows during intros. If you miss going to Hinkle Field House, then you have missed out on a great game day experience. Bring the kids to a Butler game this season and cheer on the Bulldogs who are a Cinderella no longer. They are an elite college basketball program.
image courtesy of butlersports.com