Butler Adjusting to Conference Switch

Story posted March 9, 2013 in CommRadio, Sports by Matthew Stainthorpe

It has been a historic journey for the Bulldogs as they have made many stops already in conference realignment. Beginning as an independent where they would become independent two more times down the line, Butler made stops in the Missouri Valley Conference, Mid-American Conference and the Indiana Collegiate Conference.

Finally, the team found a long-term home in 1979. The school joined what was then called the Midwestern City Conference (later re-named the Horizon League), where they won numerous conference titles and making many coaching changes consistently.

Even though, they are reportedly set to make another conference switch next season to the new Big East, it has been a long journey to Butler's current home of the Atlantic 10.

In the beginning, the team went through a drought, but would hit its stride in 1997 making their first NCAA tournament during the era of the field of 68.

In 2007, a man by the name of Brad Stevens would take this team to new heights after being assistant coach. The moments started piling up with NCAA tournament appearances coming often, especially in 2010 and 2011 where he took the team to the national championship in back to back years.

Now after having a down year, the program saw the writing on the wall with so many other teams leaving for better conferences.

Likewise, Butler sticking to its reputation, decided to move from the Horizon league to the Atlantic 10 conference, which is arguably considered to be the best conference outside the power six. 

They started the season hot, showing that they belong; winning 12 of their first 14 games including huge wins and major upsets including two over No. 9 North Carolina and No. 1 Indiana.

Then they took care of another bracket buster team in Gonzaga, which set the tone of what to expect from the Bulldogs down the stretch.

But, along the way, the A-10 showed Butler some tough love. Xavier, who has been the face of the conference for some time, welcomed the Bulldogs giving them their first loss in conference play.

Then, an emerging La Salle explorer team beat them by one point. Cumulating into two meetings with Saint Louis, who is turning into the power house of the A-10, where Saint Louis showed won both games. 

Currently, the team is holding their own. The Bulldogs are 23-7 overall, doing it with five players averaging double digits in points per game and players that have inherited “the clutch gene” in last minute game situations such as walk-on Alex Barlow, who scored the game winning bucket over Indiana. 

At this moment, Butler is barking on the door of a third or fourth place finish with one final game to go in the regular season against Xavier at home.

They do not beat teams by boasting flashy numbers of scoring 69.6 points per game (125th in nation) or grabbing 36.6 rebounds per-game (82nd in the nation), but with a special mix of walk-ons and scholarship players with the heart of a Bulldog.

Much can be expected for this team entering the A-10 tournament and soon the NCAA tournament once again. 

When it comes down to it, Butler has exceeded all expectations in 2013, while playing in a more competitive conference with teams that will give them a run for their money every single night. 

Matthew Stainthorpe is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email matthewstainthorpe@gmail.com.