Butler and Gonzaga to square off

Butler and Gonzaga are the two kings of college basketball's mid-majors (if you can still call them that), and they'll be starting a home-and-home series in December for the next two seasons, according to the Indianapolis Star.

Butler is to travel to Spokane, Wash., to meet the Zags on Dec. 20. The Bulldogs are to play at Stanford two or three days later. Gonzaga is to visit Hinkle Fieldhouse in December 2012.

“It’s an exciting series, and it’s going to benefit both teams and help them prepare,” Butler associate head coach Matthew Graves said today.

It's a buzz-worthy match-up that brings together two programs that didn't need power conference affiliations to rise up as basketball powerhouses. Gonzaga has won 11 straight regular-season titles in the West Coast Conference, making annual trips to the NCAA tournament during that span. Butler is coming off consecutive national championship game appearances and has seen its profile boosted as well by Brad Stevens and his celebrity status.

The Bulldogs versus Bulldogs games should bring plenty of intrigue, especially this coming season in Spokane. While Butler will be in the process of finding out which players will step up after the departures of Shelvin Mack and Matt Howard, Gonzaga returns a team of veterans that include Elias Harris and Robert Sacre.

It will be a big early-season test for both Cinderella programs and will reunite Stevens and Gonzaga coach Mark Few, who helped each other through rough starts last season, as Andy Katz reported in March.

"We talked through it," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. "I kept telling him that it would be OK. We were going through something similar [back-to-back losses to Santa Clara and San Francisco]. I kept following them through January and February and compared how we both took care of business."

Like Butler, Gonzaga rallied to win a share of its league title and then won its conference tournament.

"I'm sure the people around the Butler program were lamenting coming off a national championship game with the expectations of all those guys coming back and all that noise," Few said. "But you have to believe in the system. And his guys did."