Commentary

The success of the Butler Bulldogs

Updated: August 5, 2011, 10:12 AM ET
By Dick Vitale | ESPN.com

The state of Indiana has enjoyed great tradition in college basketball. The Hoosiers of Indiana have won mutiple national championships. The Purdue Boilermakers have been among the elite in the Big Ten as well. Larry Bird led Indiana State to the Final Four in 1979.

Lately, another school has made its share of noise from the state -- Butler. That's right, the Bulldogs have been special, a so-called "mid-major" making it to the national championship game in consecutive seasons.

It is a tribute to the job done by coach Brad Stevens and his staff. They keep building because the program has such tradition. It started years ago and is consistent. You know that the Bulldogs will be there fighting, scraping and clawing night in and night out. This is a team which plays sound fundamental basketball, makes the wise pass and plays intelligently and hard.

[+] EnlargeBrad Stevens
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesWith Brad Stevens at the helm, will mid-major Butler be the newest college basketball dynasty?

I think Stevens needs to be commended for his loyalty. He loves where he's at. He knows where he's at. As Jimmy V. used to say, never mess with happiness. Stevens has had opportunities to make the big bucks and go elsewhere. Why should he if happy where he is? I look at this situation as being similar to Mark Few out at Gonzaga. They have built big-time winners and they are comfortable leading their programs.

One thing is for sure at Butler. You can bet that they'll be a dominant force in the Horizon. They're a mid-major team for others to emulate. Never count those kids out. They're very well coached. They keep you in the 60s, playing their style of basketball. They did a brilliant job with Stevens coaching in the last two NCAA tournaments.

Will there be more pressure now? There will be expectations by some, and without Shelvin Mack and Matt Howard, some feel the Bulldogs will drop a notch or two.

My friends, the names may be different, but the style of play will be the same. Andrew Smith will be more of a factor up front. Khyle Marshall should develop into a super sophomore. Ronald Nored is back and will be the team leader.

The future also received a boost with the news that former All-SEC guard Rotnei Clarke will transfer in to Butler from Arkansas. The sharpshooter averaged over 15 points per game last season.

Most important in the equation...the leadership is the same with Stevens in charge. That has been so important over the last few years. The numbers speak for themselves. He has won at least 26 games in each of his four seasons as head coach, including Butler's 28-10 record last year. Try 117-25 in his four years in charge, including NCAA berths at the end of each campaign.

Expect another good season for the Bulldogs in 2011-12.

Dick Vitale

College Basketball analyst
Dick Vitale, college basketball's top analyst and ambassador, joined ESPN during the 1979-80 season. His thorough knowledge of the game is brought forth in an enthusiastic, passionate style. Vitale also contributes columns to ESPN.com.