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Monday, October 18, 2010
Butler eschews Madness, retreats instead

By Eamonn Brennan

Butler is a big-time program. No matter how you want to slice it, it exists on the same plan as fellow mid-major stalwarts like Gonzaga and Xavier -- a program that has achieved sustained, long-term success, that can (and does) recruit and play with the big boys on a regular basis. Butler was a made shot away from a national title, which is more than we can say for most mid-majors, but the pattern is the same. Pitted against Duke and other bluebloods, the 2009-10 Bulldogs seemed like underdogs. They weren't.

Which is why you'd expect Butler to have a celebratory Midnight Madness. The program is in fantastic shape, the team just finished its best season ever and Butler fans are primed for another big year. Why not throw a party?

Turns out, scheduling -- and a desire to actually practice on Friday night -- led Butler to go all late-'60s Bob Dylan on us. Instead of hosting a big event, the Bulldogs retreated to a two-day minicamp at Franklin College 30 miles south of Indianapolis in Franklin, Ind. There, Butler did something entirely novel for two hours on Friday night. It actually practiced.
Rather than introduce a Midnight Madness event or hold on-campus workouts, coach Brad Stevens took the Bulldogs to a two-day minicamp at Franklin College. They conducted a crisp, drill-filled practice from 6-8 p.m. Friday and will to have two sessions today. Fall break coincides with this weekend, so Stevens had an opportunity to hold such a camp.

"The most important part of our preseason is to prepare our team," he said. "First of all, we've never had a Midnight Madness. The last thing I want to do is change that, because I don't want to insinuate to our team that we're changing our focus.

"That is, we're preparing for March Madness, and we're trying to be a part of that."

I'm not sure that a Midnight Madness event would change Butler's focus, but Stevens is ultimately right. Midnight Madness isn't really Butler's thing. Stevens is a low-key, results-oriented kind of guy. Given how demure he was as his team climbed unprecedented heights last season -- other coaches in Stevens' position would have been staging high-stakes performance art pieces during media availabilities at the Final Four -- it would be hard to imagine him suddenly deciding to throw a Bacchanalian love-fest at Hinkle Fieldhouse. This method was much more fitting.

Would Butler fans, who swarmed to their hometown Final Four in almost impossible numbers, have preferred a preseason party? Probably. But they'd be unwise to question the Tao of Brad on the topic.