Blog Entry

A note on Butler and the unrepeated future

Posted on: March 3, 2012 11:11 pm
Edited on: March 4, 2012 12:06 am
Brad Stevens the Bulldogs pulled off something that likely won't be duplicated for decades. (US Presswire)

By Matt Norlander

This sounds so trite, but you know it's so true. It wasn't until it the body was cold and the clock was officially out of countdown, until the schedule was out chances, that we could count Butler out. How many times had we done that in the past two years? Easily a half-dozen. And then the Bulldogs kept on winning, winning until the national title game and taking down a lot more than basketball nets and basketball programs with five times the spending budget. They never won a national title, but getting there is nearly the same level of accomplishment for a school like Butler.

Tonight, the chances of the Bulldogs entertaining us and making us doubt them once again officially extinguished, as Valparaiso acted like the top seed that it is, defeating Brad Stevens' Butler team 65-46 in the semifinals of the Horizon League tournament. They're the fun story, the new brand of underdog for fans to flock to -- and they won't be in this year's NCAA tournament field. It's not sad or anything, it's just a change of guard in the Horizon League for at least a year, and merely a hiccup of a season for Butler, which should be back in the thick of things next season when a very good recruiting class arrives and senior sharpshooting transfer Rotnei Clarke is eligible for his one year of sniper service.

Butler finishes its wobbly season with a 20-14 record. It's probably going to get an invite to some postseason tournament, but for all intents and purposes, the Bulldogs' campaign ended tonight. Valpo -- who a decade ago was the synonym for small guy success stories in the NCAAs -- gets to play for its first tournament appearance in eight years Sunday. The semifinal result was a nice way to dovetail the story lines of two programs who very well could build a new rivalry, what with the Crusaders have their own young coach (Bryce Drew) to build their program with, too.

The Valpo narrative can wait, though. After all, it still has to win one more. So here's my primary takeaway from the end of the Butler story, for now. Picture it. It's 2030, and we're all reading our news off of folding tablet screens that unlock by command of a face scanner. Something has replaced Twitter. Mike Krzyzewski looks the same as he did in 2005, which is the same as he did in 1988. Jeff Borzello wears a wig to hide his ever-thinning hair, because scientists still haven't found a way to reverse balding. Some things can't be overcome. The NCAA's adoration for the RPI falls under this category too, I'm afraid.

My point is, it's going to 2030 and we're going to remember and look back on Butler with more awe than what we had in 2010 and 2011. Because, while we're inevitably going to have another team from outside a major conference win a national title, we're not going to have a team come from a small league and make two straight national title games. Butler will have no peer in that regard for the next two decades. Brad Stevens will be there, Indianapolis, or at Indiana, or UCLA -- or maybe even Duke. He'll be climbing up the all-time wins list and cementing himself as one of the greats of all-time.

And he'll probably never come close to accomplishing something as unlikely as what he and his team did the past two years. Think about your impression of Butler the night it was two inches away from beating Duke in the most dramatic way in the history of the sport. And then how did you see this team in 2011? On the night Butler falls short of another chance at doing the improbable, our appreciation for that only grows. That appreciation will inflame, coincide and correlate with every team that falls well short of doing what this one did in the tournaments to come.



Since: Mar 4, 2012
Posted on: March 8, 2012 3:56 pm

A note on Butler and the unrepeated future

To KenValpo- You and your school blow chunks! Valpo will be the armpit of Indiana forever! You stink! HAHAHAHACry

Since: May 17, 2007
Posted on: March 4, 2012 11:30 pm

A note on Butler and the unrepeated future

OK, as somebody who saw Valpo play Butler twice in two weeks:

Valpo does not have a big man and will be hard-pressed to advance in the NCAA -- If they beat Detroit, no small challenge that.

Valpo someday back to the field of 16? If it happens don't be shocked. Bryce Drew is a brilliant young coach.

Butler was lacking the scoring punch that a team needs but there is no doubt that Stevens is a quality coach and an excellent manager of personnel.

Butler back in the Final 4? Um ... exactly how many teams have been in the Final 4? Twice ... in a row?

But rating a mid-major on that criteria is grossly unfair. There is much more to a college athletics program that the meat markets in the Big East and SEC churn out every year. They win, yes, make millions, yes ... and are an embarrassment to the academics process.

Ridicule them as one-and-dones if you want. It shows a lack of education.

Since: Mar 4, 2012
Posted on: March 4, 2012 10:30 pm

A note on Butler and the unrepeated future

Valpe WILL NOT make it past the first round of the NCAA tourney. Only good wins are against Butler. Broekoff and Van Wijk are scrubs! Get over THE SHOT it was A FLUKE!

Since: Nov 17, 2006
Posted on: March 4, 2012 7:00 pm

A note on Butler and the unrepeated future

Top coaches at smaller colleges can move on to bigger things even after an off-season.  In 1969-70, Valparaiso had a very shaky season, getting hammered by most of their quality opponents.  The only quality win that year was over Dartmouth (that year, Dartmouth beat Villanova, Villanova beat Kentucky, and Kentucky was #1).  Still, their coach was hired at Memphis State; from there he was hired at Illinois; and from there he was hired by UCLA as the successor to John Wooden.  That coach was Gene Bartow.

Since: Nov 17, 2006
Posted on: March 4, 2012 6:56 pm

A note on Butler and the unrepeated future

More often than not, yes, Indiana will be either the strongest team in Indiana or a strong contender for that honor.  The state does have another Big Ten program (Purdue), and several other quality basketball programs:  Notre Dame, Valparaiso, Butler, sometimes Ball State, sometimes Evansville.

Since: Nov 17, 2006
Posted on: March 4, 2012 6:53 pm

A note on Butler and the unrepeated future

Don't forget Valparaiso.  Valpo was the regular season champion of the Horizon League; if it wins a home game against Detroit on Tuesday night, it will be the conference's representative at the NCAA tournament.  The first-year head coach of Valpo is none other than Bryce Drew, the man who fired THE SHOT to beat Mississippi in 1998.  This year, Valpo has some quality wins, over Akron, Duquesne, two over Cleveland State (one when Cleveland State was still good), and three over Butler.

Valpo is also a great university academically; it is perennially in the top five in US News & World Report's rating of Midwestern colleges. 

Since: Mar 4, 2012
Posted on: March 4, 2012 6:13 pm

A note on Butler and the unrepeated future

As you wipe the dust off your IU gear, realize that just because it is called Indiana University doesn't mean it is Indiana's team. IU has been overshadowed, not only by Butler, but Notre Dame and Purdue in all sports and academic quality. It's the truth.

Since: Aug 21, 2006
Posted on: March 4, 2012 4:57 pm

A note on Butler and the unrepeated future

To Teres Minor - 
Butler is and will always be the powerhouse in Indiana.
This is ludicrous. Butler's a strong team, but Indiana will always be the powerhouse in Indiana.

Since: Mar 9, 2011
Posted on: March 4, 2012 4:03 pm

A note on Butler and the unrepeated future

This kind of comment is typical amongst BCS program fans that think the world revolves around their little universe.

First of all, you are lacking serious perspective, and knowledge of how this season really went, with regards to how Steven's season will be viewed amongst the coaching fraternity, or anyone that knows anything about college basketball.

What Stevens did to get this team in any position to make it back to the tournament, was nothing short of amazing.  Any other program that was faced with ther personell that Butler had this year would not have come close to the results that Steven's produced.
The fact that this team somehow made it to 20 wins, within reach of a NCAA tournament birth (now gone), and a likely post season invite is noteworthy, even amongst his "one of the all-time-greats" coaching resume.

I love the attitude, jealousy, and cheap shots all the way... it lets you know just how far this program has come.

Get ready haters... Butler will be back next year, and you won't like it.

Since: Mar 4, 2012
Posted on: March 4, 2012 2:00 pm

A note on Butler and the unrepeated future

To Teres Minor - 
Butler is and will always be the powerhouse in Indiana. IU's "troubles" go much further than recruiting. Butler has lost 2 NBA draft picks in 2 years. IU just can't say the same. Butler made them the players they are today and IU passed them both up. Brad Stevens represents a program with class and integrity. Something Tom Crean will have a tough time doing once this Indiana Elite scandal comes out. Teres Minor - you don't know what goes on in big programs behind the bible verse tweets and campus appearances. IU will not get through the first round of the NCAA this year. Tom Crean is lucky he has a job with his Big Ten road record through his first few years in Bloomington. Butler's run isn't over. These past two years weren't our only runs of success. Building a program doesn't start with a new coaching staff and new players. It starts with a mentality that no one else can beat you that resinates across an entire campus. With CHARACTER, SELFLESSNESS and INTEGRITY. The world can learn a few things from Butler. Butler's recruting pool has always been the same. We recruit players with these characteristics that want to win. Not just talent.

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