I was sitting courtside for The Greatest Shot That Almost Was, and you could have almost drawn a straight line that started from my seat, connected to Gordon Hayward and went on to the basket at the far end of the court. Hayward was slightly left of a perfectly straight line.

As Hayward launched The Greatest Shot That Almost Was, the clock expiring as the ball was in flight at the end of the 2010 NCAA Tournament national championship game between Hayward’s upstart Butler Bulldogs and the blueblood Duke Blue Devils, I had this thought: “I’m watching the greatest shot in the history of the NCAA Tournament.” 

PHOTOS: Top moments from Butler-Duke championship game 

That’s how on-line Hayward’s heave was, and how long it was in the air. I was, quite honestly, stunned when the ball failed to flow through the net. Butler’s Cinderella dream ended that day. It was just a coincidence of scheduling, but I had been courtside for all six of Butler’s games that year, and I’d seen a bit of magic along the way. I was a believer. 

I’ll be watching on Sunday as CBS shows that classic game, a bit of a time-filler for what should have been an Elite Eight game between two teams dreaming of a spot in the Final Four and two fan bases resisting the urge to check flight prices so as to not jinx their favorite school. Here’s what you need to know if you want to watch, too. 

Duke vs. Butler, 2010 NCAA Tournament championship game

When: Sunday, 4 p.m. ET
Where: CBS
Seeds: Duke, 1 seed; Butler, 5 seed
Score: Duke 61, Butler 59 

This game was sold, on the larger national scale, as David vs. Goliath. The mighty ACC school vs. the tiny Horizon League upstart. Even the Associated Press recap of that thriller mentioned Butler’s small student enrollment within the first 10 paragraphs. 

But those inside the sport knew that wasn’t accurate. In fact, here are three misconceptions that were sold nationally but weren’t really true: 

1. Tiny school, only scrappy talent

The truth: Butler had better NBA talent than Duke. 

My longtime Sporting News colleague, Hall of Fame writer Mike DeCourcy, was sitting about a dozen seats closer to halfcourt for this contest, and he’d spent most of the tournament telling anyone who asked that Gordon Hayward was a legit NBA talent, not some scrappy “Hoosiers”-esque overachiever from a small school in Indiana.

I asked him about it this weekend, just to make sure my recollection was accurate, and this was his response: “That’s correct. I went to the (USA Under-)19 team trials that year, after Gordon‘s freshman year and before sophomore year. And I told everyone the two best players in the gym were Gordon Hayward and Klay Thompson.”

Both teams had two players drafted. Hayward left after that tournament run, his sophomore season, and was picked No. 9 in the 2010 NBA Draft by the Jazz. He has had an outstanding NBA career, including an All-Star nod in his last season with Utah. His teammate Shelvin Mack stuck around one more year and helped Butler get back to the title game, then left for the NBA and was the fourth pick in the second round of the 2011 draft.

That was, coincidentally, one spot after Duke’s Kyle Singler was picked. Singler was the second player from that Duke team selected in the 2011 draft; Nolan Smith was the 21st pick of the first round. Mack, though, played more NBA games (456) than Smith and Singler combined (440). 

2. The coaching matchup was lopsided in Duke’s favor

The truth: Mike Krzyzewski is a true basketball coaching legend, a giant who entered that game with three national titles already under his belt. That part of the debate isn’t part of the misconception. It turns out that Brad Stevens knew a thing or two about coaching, too, because not only did he lead Butler to the national championship game as a 5 seed in 2010, he also led the Bulldogs back to the title game in 2011, as an 8 seed — after losing the No. 9 overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft. That’s just not supposed to happen at a school like Butler. Stevens helped his players find a way.

And then, of course, the NBA came calling. All the speculation — mostly after his second trip to the title game — about his next possible move centered around college jobs. Was he destined to take over at Indiana? Would he be the eventual successor to Krzyzewski at Duke? Basically, if the coach of your favorite big-time program was either struggling or even sniffing retirement age, Stevens was atop your wish list. 

But then the Celtics, who were at the end of an era with veterans Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and others, brought Stevens in to replace Doc Rivers and build the next wave of success. After a couple of rebuilding years, Stevens’ Celtics have a 248-144 record over the past five seasons, a hefty .633 winning percentage. 

3. This was Butler’s once-in-a-lifetime March

The truth: Well, that wasn’t the case. What’s more impressive than a run to the title game as a No. 5 seed? A run to the national title game as a No. 8 seed, the year after losing your best player to the NBA as the ninth overall pick in the draft. 

And, sure, maybe nobody really saw that second run coming — the Bulldogs needed a miracle to win their tournament opener in 2011 — but maybe we should have. Stevens was still there, and so was Mack and Matt Howard (who had a long pro career overseas) and heady point guard Ronald Nored and a supporting cast that was practically perfect. 

Unfortunately, the Bulldogs didn’t win that one, either, falling to UConn 53-41 in a game where neither team could get much of anything to fall through the net. 

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