4:30pm, CBS, at New Orleans, LA.
There is something to be said for claiming your own legacy. When the Green Bay Packers won the Super Bowl, it allowed a new generation of Packers to experience something that two previous generations had done. Aaron Rogers might never be as good as Brett Favre, but from that point forward, he can claim that he was a championship quarterback too.
For Chandler Parsons and Alex Tyus, today's game is a chance at the same opportunity that Rogers had. Florida's back-to-back championships are fairly recent, but in the college game, four years is a lifetime ago. As the Gators tipoff today against Butler, Parsons and Tyus will not be playing with Nick Calathes, Jai Lucas or Marreese Speights. On the bench will be Adam Allen, who will leave Florida with only one good knee. On the floor instead will be an undersized tough guy from Brooklyn, a rare homegrown talent, and a center who found a spot after fleeing Georgetown.
Parsons and Tyus are the only remaining pieces from the recruiting class that was supposed to be the next great team. After all, Billy Donovan turned down the Orlando Magic for them, so they must have been good. But bad luck, immaturity and guys looking to get paid ultimately led to only Parsons and Tyus being here today.
This might seem like a romantic notion. But anyone who has watched Tyus play in the last two games has to believe that Tyus is aware of what it would mean for his career to get Florida back in the Final Four. As much as we cringe when Tyus shoots, we were ecstatic when his 3-pointer early in the BYU game fell through the hoop. Not only did he rebound well in the last two games, he seems to have finally realized that he has the body to dominate inside.
Parsons continues to be a pleasure to watch. We all want him to score more and drive to the hole, but he is more effective when he is filling the other stats. In three tournament games, Parsons is averaging seven assists, a truly insane number for someone who is 6-foot-10. Plus, he has emerged as the leader of the team, which means that he has communicated to everyone else the importance of this game to their own personal histories.
Butler, with Matt Howard, Ronald Nored and Shelvin Mack are not impressed or intimidated by Florida. In the last two seasons, Butler has defeated two No. 1 seeds (Syracuse in 2010 and Pitt), two Big Ten teams (Michigan State in 2010 and Wisconsin), and was inches away from defeating Duke (remember, before Gordon Hayward's ill-fated halfcourt shot, he had a chance to take the lead with five seconds left, too). Butler struggled this season, until they rolled off a 12-game winning streak they hope to continue today. Butler has not lost since February 3.
If there is any team that might have fate or luck on their side, it should be the mid-major. But remember that this is a Championship Mode game. Act accordingly.