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NCAA championship game: What you didn't know about Butler

Yes, Butler is the sentimental favorite heading into tonight's NCAA championship game against Duke. But as an Indiana school, it has a long basketball history.

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Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, the home of the Butler Bulldogs and site of the climactic scene in the film 'Hoosiers,' was the largest basketball arena in the United States until 1950. Not far away in Lucas Oil Stadium, Butler plays Duke in the NCAA championship game tonight

Amy Sancetta/AP

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Butler University’s men’s basketball team is the overwhelming sentimental favorite against Duke in tonight’s NCAA championship game. It has a longest-in-the-nation, 25-game winning streak, and it could be the first team since the 1972 UCLA Bruins to win an NCAA men's basketball title in its hometown.

But that is only a part of the story for the Bulldogs – underdogs with a wonderful, if little-known pedigree.

Before there was ever an NCAA tournament, which began in 1939, Butler was crowned the AAU national champion in 1924. And in 1929, when coached by Paul D. “Tony” Hinkle, they were awarded the John J. McDevitt Trophy, a national championship designation bestowed by the Veteran Athletes of Philadelphia.

Hinkle was a veritable institution on the northern Indianapolis campus. He coached the basketball, football, and baseball teams to more than 1,000 victories during a career that spanned five decades.

'Hoosiers' fame

In 1966, nearing the end of his time on the bench, Butler Fieldhouse was renamed Hinkle Fieldhouse in his honor. The largest basketball arena in the United States until 1950, it hosted the finals of the state high school basketball tournament for many years, including in 1954, when tiny Milan High School won the title in a story immortalized in the movie “Hoosiers.”

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