As Butler students are packing up and getting ready to head home for Thanksgiving break, I thought there would be no better time to reflect on the last year of Butler Athletics than to create a list of things us fans can be thankful for. Seeing as how Butler Athletic teams are now being consistently represented in the Top 25 of their respective sports, I thought a top 25 list was appropriate.
Top 25 Reasons to be Thankful You're a Butler Fan this past year:
#25 - Hinkle Fieldhouse: Anyone who has watched a Butler game on the ESPN network has been reminded of the history that is Hinkle Fieldhouse. There are not 3 college arenas in the world that can boast such history and at every home basketball game, I am reminded how truly amazing the atmosphere can be.
#24 - Blue II: Not only is Blue II a great looking english bulldog, he has become a symbol of Butler seen all over the internet. There are not many live mascots left in the college/university ranks, and Blue II (thanks to last year) has become an icon for all of those young bulldogs aspiring to great things.
#23 - Dawg Pound: With this year marking my 4th year as a member of Dawg Pound, I can truly say that we have come a long way. Fans and students alike can be thankful for the involvement by the Dawg Pound at all sporting events this past year. It doesn't hurt that we have been blessed with great teams, but records were set for Volleyball and Women's Basketball just this past year and we have sold out the lower level at every game so far this year - including preseason.
#22 - Half-Court Shots: Is it a coincidence that Butler's Athletic success and the conversion rate of half-court shots during timeouts of basketball games seem to be related? I think not.
#21 - Athletic All-Americans: Shelvin Mack has already been selected this year on many different preseason all-america lists. Jessica Wolfe of the Volleyball team became BU's second AVCA All-American last season as well.
#20 - Cody Zeller: Even though Cody Zeller picked Indiana, we can be thankful that Butler is being considered with such high-profile recruits and that despite coming up empty in the end, we can be assured that the program will continue to do what is does best - WIN. Recruits will continue to watch our success and eventually want to be apart of it.
#19 - Xavier: We should be thankful that Xavier and Butler agreed to extend their contract and will play each other the next two seasons again. Not only does Xavier represent a quality midwest program (despite recent results), but they also provide another marque non-conference game for Butler to build its resume upon.
#18 - Khyle Marshall, Chrishawn Hopkins, Erik Fromm: These three freshman have shown extreme promise already in this early season and I am expecting more great things by the end of the season. Khyle and Erik have shown they have the skills to compete at a high level and Chrishawn "Hops" Hopkins has already shown his incredible vision of the court. It is only a matter of time before these three adjust to the college game and provide Coach Stevens with more lethal weapons.
#17 - IU Athletics: Wisconsin scored 83 points on IU football last week and the basketball team (despite Crean-the-savior) is still not good. Although several high profile recruits have committed to IU, we can still be thankful that Butler is currently a winning program and shows no signs of stopping.
#16 - Thunderdunks: We have already dunked more this season in 2 games than most of last year. Get ready message boards, the thuderdunks might be coming with Butler instead of against them. All of these dunks and Chrishawn is still yet to throw one down. I promise you when he does, ESPN will be all over it.
#15 - Fall Sports Dominance: I already dedicated a blog post to this topic, but the sheer domination by Butler Fall Sports teams the past two years proves that Butler is no longer just a basketball school. With conference championships from the mens and women's soccer team, the mens and women's cross country team, and a second place finish by Volleyball, not to forget the 11-1 finish and post season appearance by the Football team last year, the past few years have been the best Fall Sports finish that I can remember.
#14 - Louisville: We can be thankful that we lost that game on Tuesday. Not only did it allow the team to realize what we need to work on, but it was done early enough in the season to help us prepare for the rest of the season. Be glad that we do not schedule cupcakes early on in the season like most major programs. We are going to learn more about our team this next month than most will learn in late match.
#13 - Bobby Fong: What a great ambassador for our school. An avid follower of Butler sports, Fong represents all that Butler stands for. We will greatly miss him as our President, but with his unexpected departure, Butler may have a great opportunity to capitalize on the athletic success in a way no President has done yet.
#12 - Band Wagon: Man did the band wagon take off in March. What we need to understand and be thankful for is that the band wagon will come and go, but us fans can be proud that we have always been and will stay on the wagon.
#11 - The Butler Way: What an incredible motto that our students, faculty, staff, and athletes live by. There is truly a wide gap between our school and the majority of major athletic programs. The team above self motto is not only preached, but it is lived each and every day - from the Dance major to the All-American athlete. I am thankful for the Butler Way and how it is so much more than just a motto.
#10 - Water Fountains are replaceable: Enough said.
#9 - Roosevelt Jones, Jackson Aldridge, Andy Smeathers, Kameron Woods: We should be thankful for the four recruits who have already signed LOI's to come play at Butler next year. Not only are these four players incredible athletes and basketball players, they are also great students. Roosevelt Jones is a strong candidate for Mr. Basketball in Illinois.
#8 - ESPN "experts": Is it just me, or do I become thankful whenever an ESPN expert picks against Butler. Nothing satisfies me more than to prove experts wrong, and last year's Final Four run (after being written off following the Georgetown game) made it even more special.
#7 - Did I mention IU Athletics?: Gosh am I glad that I am a Butler fan.
#6 - Consistency: I mentioned it earlier, but Butler has been incredibly consistent. Butler basketball currently ranks 5th in weeks being in the AP Top 25 over the last 5 seasons. In addition, Butler has played invited to the NCAA Tournament for four consecutive years. Three of the past five NCAA appearances Butler has advanced to the Sweet 16 or later stages. This consistency of success by our basketball team is something to be thankful for.
#5 - Academic All-Americans: Butler Basketball has had four players earn six Academic All-American certificates in the past four seasons, with Matt Howard and Gordon Hayward earning the recognition last year. In fact for the 2009-2010 season Butler athletes claimed 5 Academic All-American awards. Joining those two, was Conner Burt from the Men's Soccer team, Grant Hunter from the Football team, and Andy Baker from the Cross Country team. Already this year, Conner Burt and Ben Sippola have been recognized with the award. Even our women's club laccross team claimed 8 Academic All-Americans (second only to UCLA's 9) this year. This commitment and recognition for our academics shows that the Butler Way is truly important to us.
#4 - Undefeated seasons: I am thankful to not witnessing a loss for the men's soccer team this year and the men's basketball team last year in Horizon League play.
#3 - Gordon Hayward: We can be thankful that Hayward showed that Butler can produce athletes for the next level and that by attending Butler and getting an outstanding education, you could also be getting prepared to play in the pros someday. In addition, here is to hoping that Hayward remembers Butler when he is making all sorts of money and gives back to where it all started.
#2 - Brad Stevens: I could dedicate a whole blog post to Brad Stevens and what we should all be thankful for, but many of you know this already. A class act coach and person in the community, Brad stands for all that is Butler. His pledge to stay at Butler following the Final Four run should give us all something to be thankful for.
#1 - National Championship Appearance: This was something special. No Butler fan will ever forget that April night and why should we want to? We might be the only team in the world that can truly claim that we WON without scoring more points than the other team. We proved to the whole world that hard work and teamwork can get you all the way to the national championship game. Had that shot gone in... wow, but the fact that it didn't and we are all better off because of it, speaks volumes to what was accomplished by that team last year.
I know that there are many more things about Butler Athletics that we should be thankful for and I hope that you share your top list. Have a great Thanksgiving with friends and family (those who are the most important) and GO DAWGS!