Indiana basketball legend Steve Alford and his future wife, Tanya, once babysat for Brandon Miller in their home town of New Castle, Ind.
When Miller blossomed into a tough, smart point guard his senior season in high school, Alford was a bright young coach at Southwest Missouri State. That year Alford successfully recruited Miller, who went on to average 11 minutes as a freshman on a team that reached the round of 16 of the NCAA tournament. Then Alford jumped to his current post at Iowa, but he didn't take Miller with him.
However, Miller did leave Southwest Missouri State, transferring to Butler, which is just 48 miles from New Castle.
Once there, he was reunited with Darnell Archey, an old teammate who made three-pointers like layups at Chrysler High in New Castle but was lightly recruited because he had a slight, 160-pound frame.
A year later swingman Mike Monserez, whose father starred at Butler in the early 1970s, arrived as a transfer from Notre Dame.
With a roster of unheralded players, Butler is considered a mid-major program by many. But sometimes a collection of overlooked or late-blooming players such as the Miller-led Bulldogs develop the chemistry to score two upsets in the first weekend of the NCAA tournament and reach the round of 16.
Miller made a floater with 6.2 seconds left Friday to lift No. 12-seeded Butler past No. 5 seed Mississippi State, and Archey made eight three-pointers Sunday as Butler toppled No. 4 seed Louisville. It took those two events for the Bulldogs to gain anyone's notice, a fact that angered senior front-court standout Joel Cornette.
"On paper, people think we're nothing, can't match up with anybody and shouldn't be here," Cornette said Sunday after the Bulldogs rallied from an early 15-point deficit for a 79-71 victory over Louisville. "[Watching television] we barely knew we were playing. Nobody talked about it. Nobody cared. Nobody gave us a shot."
Cornette's voice grew louder, and he continued: "And we're still playing for the national championship? We still are here."
Since the NCAA expanded to 64 teams in 1985, 16 teams seeded No. 12 or lower have reached the round of 16. None, however, has made the Final Four. Butler's noble march is expected to end Friday in Albany, N.Y., against Oklahoma, seeded No. 1 in the East Region.
Still, any team that runs its offense as precisely as Butler and has a player, such as Archey, capable of sliding off picks and popping threes has a chance.
"They're one of the best three-point shooting teams I've seen," said Louisville Coach Rick Pitino, who has used the three-point shot as effectively as any coach during a career that includes a national championship with Kentucky in 1996.
Butler's gym, Hinkle Fieldhouse, was built in 1928 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Buildings. Much of the film "Hoosiers" was shot there, so when the Bulldogs ran a weave on offense, then set screens for Archey so he could hit shot after shot Sunday, excitement ran high for many reasons.
Archey frequently finished what he called "my favorite play," a three from the left baseline. Of his eight three-pointers against Louisville, six came off passes from Monserez. There were assists on 21 of the 27 Butler baskets.
"We've got guys who some days don't even scratch the surface of their talent," Cornette said. "They don't have the output that shows up on the scorebook. But we get it done."
Very little gets done for Butler without Miller, and he became unnerved against the press that Louisville used to fuel a 15-point lead in the opening 10 minutes of Sunday's game.
"I don't think I've ever seen pressure like that," Miller said. "It was very unique, took us out of our stuff early. We never got used to it. But we handled it better."
Coach Todd Lickliter tried to rest Miller whenever possible, because so much of his energy was required simply pushing the ball upcourt and getting the team into its sets. Miller also had assists on the two baskets, a three by Archey and a layup by Duane Lightfoot, that lifted Butler's lead to four with 35 seconds left.
"Brandon was just terrific," Lickliter said. "The last four minutes I didn't think he'd make it. He was so tired."
With rest comes an even more imposing challenge.