Score one for the little guy!
When Butler made its great run to the championship game last season, it was a huge step for the so-called "mid-majors." Brad Stevens has done a terrific job with his Bulldogs, and now the program is earning major dividends.
Butler has already put together a great schedule for next season. Last year, the Bulldogs faced off against teams like Georgetown, Xavier, Minnesota, Clemson and more. Now the Bulldogs get to christen Pitino's Palace in Louisville and take on Duke in a title game rematch.
That scheduling is a sign of respect.
Stevens has a great group coming back, including Shelvin Mack, Matt Howard, Shawn Vanzant, and a solid incoming class. If Gordon Hayward didn't enter the NBA draft, Butler would have been a top five team in the preseason. Either way, this program will never be taken lightly again.
Butler's story is similar to that of Gonzaga. Mark Few had a number of offers, but he felt he had a special program in a good league. He became a winner and he rendered the tag of "mid-major" meaningless.
Stevens' name was mentioned with a number of vacancies this off-season. I remember the late Jimmy V saying that as a coach, you should never mess with success. If you are happy at a place, stay there and enjoy it.
Recently, there was an announcement that Butler will be part of a major event in Indianapolis. Indiana's top four college basketball schools will play doubleheaders in 2011 and 2012 at Conseco Fieldhouse. The new Crossroads Classic was will include a doubleheader for December 2011, featuring Purdue vs. Butler and Notre Dame vs. Indiana. That should produce excitement galore, baby!
The Butler Bulldogs should dominate the Horizon League for years to come. They are in an underrated conference that plays very good basketball and their recent scheduling says a lot about their success.