In NCAA Division I men’s basketball, many programs have likely come to accept that if Butler’s squad makes the championship tournament, it will be a dangerous and unpredictable force.
No matter who the Bulldogs play come tourney time, they can almost always guarantee a nail-biting affair.
Butler has established its relevance with years of success on the nation’s highest stage.
But this season’s team has established something that could be considered just as important.
This team is making Butler a scary school to face in the regular season.
Imagine you’re looking at your team’s schedule for the new season. There are the games that don’t really stick out and games that make fans say, “That should be a good game.”
But there’s a third category.
“This could be trouble.”
Personally, I saw the Indiana and Gonzaga games in this light. I believed they would be fantastic contests, but as a fan I was equally as prepared for a loss as for a victory.
This season’s Bulldogs have turned Butler into one of those teams, whether they know it or not.
They have proven they can beat other teams in a variety of ways and under numerous sets of circumstances.
Not to mention they have done so in rip-your-heart-out fashion, from the opposition’s perspective.
It’s hard to imagine Marquette, Indiana and Gonzaga players feeling very good after their last-second losses to Butler.
Gonzaga coach Mark Few looked exhausted and beleaguered after Saturday’s 64-63 Butler win. He looked like a man who had pulled out all the stops, who knew his team was on the cusp of a strong victory.
Butler ripped the rug out from under Few and his Bulldogs.
Few should know this story better than most. His mid-major program has beaten the big boys and forced them to take notice: you’d better not schedule us if you want a guaranteed victory.
It all starts with Butler coach Brad Stevens.
The man must have at least one android or monk as a parent. He was the calmest individual on the Hinkle Fieldhouse floor after Saturday’s win when many coaches would have been going bonkers.
But this is how he operates his program.
He has a way to simplify everything.
“It’s not like it’s doomsday,” Stevens said of trailing by a point with 3.5 seconds left and the ball going the wrong way. “Just go play (and) figure it out.”
This attitude trickles down.Sophomore guard and recent hero Roosevelt Jones is a soft-spoken man. But his description of the game-winning play against Gonzaga oozes of Stevens-talk.
“Just making a basketball play,” he said.
Freshman guard Kellen Dunham on replacing injured leading scorer Rotnei Clarke?
“I just tried to contribute as much as I could.”
Nothing intimidates these Bulldogs. Stevens has built a mid-major monster on that idea.
It’s a simple concept that has created a complex team. And one that will provide a scare on any schedule down the road.