OT: Bulldogs take on underdog status in the Big East

Sophomore Simas Lukosius drives to the basket in the Butler Blue vs. White scrimmage on Oct. 8. Photo by Claire Runkel.

SAM CARUS | SPORTS REPORTER | scarus@butler.edu

College basketball is right around the corner and the time has come for the release of preseason rankings. When Big East preseason rankings were released there was one common theme: almost every publication that ranked the Big East had Butler finishing in the lower third of the conference. 

KenPom, which is a popular site used to rank and seed teams for the NCAA tournament, had Butler dead last in the Big East. At the top of many projected rankings sit Creighton, Villanova and Connecticut. Butler is being compared to teams like DePaul and Georgetown. Last season, the Blue Demons and Hoyas combined for a 6-33 record in the Big East.

Butler finished last year with a record of 14-19 and 6-14 in conference play, but with a new coaching staff and a talent infusion from the transfer portal, things are looking up. 

One of the reasons Butler is ranked so low is because it is hard to predict what the team’s rotations will look like. Transfers new to the team include Ali Ali from Akron, Jalen Thomas from Georgia State, Manny Bates from NC State and Eric Hunter Jr. from Purdue. It’s hard to predict what head coach Thad Matta and his staff are going to do when it comes to a rotation so uncertainty mixed with playing in a tough conference like the Big East is why Butler is ranked near the bottom.

Their 6-14 record in the Big East last year does not help either. However, seven of their 14 losses were by single digits — including an overtime loss to a top-10 team in Providence. A lot of Butler’s success this season will ride on the continued development of players like Chuck Harris who was on the All-Big East preseason honorable mentions team , Simas Lukosius and Jayden Taylor

Butler fans and students are aware of the underdog mentality Butler will carry into the season. First-year sports media major Owen O’Keefe shared his thoughts on the rankings. 

I like Butler being ranked low and people doubting the team because it gives them a chip on their shoulder,” O’Keefe said. “Our new coaching staff and player development is going to be a huge factor for the team.”

While many fans are excited about being one of the underdogs, first-year economics major Aidan Finneran references who is at the helm this year and how the Bulldogs finished last season strong. 

“Thad Matta has never had a losing season,” Finneran said. “The effort Butler played with in the Big East tournament should remind everyone that this team could hang with anyone.” 

It is true, Butler knocked off Xavier in the first round and fought hard against Providence, only losing by four. 

First-year accounting major Sean Grove is also high on Matta, and trusts that the new head coach will have Butler prepared this season. “There is no doubt that Coach Matta will have the team ready to go and motivated,” Grove said. 

Butler opens up Big East play against two of the top three projected teams in the Big East. They host UConn on Dec. 17 and then travel to Nebraska to take on Creighton on Dec. 22, who is ranked nine in the AP top 25 preseason poll. Matchups against Georgetown and DePaul the teams that accompany Butler near the bottom of the Big East projections will take place on Jan. 1 and Jan. 4, respectively.

Butler has never been a team that is projected to dominate the Big East and make it all the way. The program focuses on what they can do internally to be the best team on and off the floor. 

At Big East media day in New York, Matta embraced this. 

“The biggest thing upon getting the job was starting to establish the culture we wanted in the program,” Matta said. “That’s why Butler is a special program because they do not worry about the outside noise.”

While the program is not worried about preseason Big East rankings, Bulldog fans everywhere are used to the underdog mentality and ready for the ride Butler basketball will give them this year. 


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