Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Two Loses and Two Moral Victories

As the final buzzer sounded at the IZOD center in New Jersey, I could not help but think that Butler had just proven themselves on a national stage, yet did not win the game against Duke. Last year, it was forcing the Blue Devils to defend one final possession instead of the blowout everyone assumed. This year, following a dismantling loss by Louisville and an ugly home loss to Evansville, the critics predicted an even more lopsided loss, and had it not been for Shelvin Mack's cramps when Butler was trailing 45-44, I believe that Butler would have won that game.

It may not have been Duke's best game of the season, but the number one team in the nation tied at half-time with a team who lost to Evansville? What does that say about Butler? Some would say they are inconsistent, and right now that might be true, but I would argue that they are finally beginning to come together as a team and find their individual roles. With the exception of Zach Hahn still trying to dribble the ball, the first half and early second half (pre-Mack injury) of Saturday's game showed glimpses of the new Bulldogs.

Butler fans have been so lucky that we have not had to have a team building year like this for quite some time with the immediate impact from Hayward, Nored, and Mack two years ago. But it is important to realize that the majority of programs around the country have rebuilding years all the time. Take UNC for example - last year was not the greatest year on record for the Tar Heels, and they have already lost some close games this year. I will not be surprised, however, to see UNC challenge Duke for an ACC title this year. Butler, like UNC, is simply rebuilding and like UNC's win over Kentucky, Butler's statement against Duke shows that the two teams might be turning things around already. If that is the case, look out. Over the last 4 years, only one other team has been ranked in the top 25 more than Butler. This statistic shows not only how well our teams have been, but it also shows how the majority of other teams have to embrace years like Butler is having currently.

We will not have to wait long to see if the team is progressing as I think they are. Xavier and Stanford (in addition to Mississippi Valley State) are all waiting to give the Bulldogs their best shot in the next week and a half. Despite Xavier playing less-than-stellar basketball right now, going up against a Xavier squad at Cintas with a fierce rivalry brewing, will not be an easy task.

So what can we expect from the remainder of the season? Butler might not go undefeated this year, and will surely be challenged by Cleveland State and Detroit for the Horizon League title. But what we CAN be sure of is that Brad Stevens and the 14 players on this year's roster will be prepared to compete in each and every game. We can be sure that Butler will continue to develop into the team that will once again compete for a deep run into the NCAA tournament. It is not a matter of if it happens, but more of a question of when. Butler, like other programs, needed time to adjust to the significant losses from last years team. The best part though is, the adjustment has already begun.

Other Tidbits

* The Dawg Pound has already filled a bus of 50 students that will drive down to Xavier with two other fan buses in order to help bring some Butler spirit into the hostile building. We will also be taking buses to UIC and Valpo, in addition to any NCAA tournament rounds that are drivable.

* Because the Stanford game is the Saturday after finals, I am starting to become concerned that students will not be able to stay in campus housing following finals. We are currently looking into reserving a room on campus to give underclassman a place to stay until game time.

* We have appointed Myke Van De Voort to a "Cheer Coordinator" position that we will be testing for the remainder of the year. Cheer Coordinator will consist of leading cheers and keeping everyone on the same page during games and is a position that we have been thinking about for awhile. I have no doubt that Myke will do a fantastic job!

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