ESPN’s Andy Katz reported around 9 p.m. last night that Butler’s move to the Atlantic 10 conference was official, ending months of speculation, according to an unnamed source with direct exposure to the negotiations. The Bulldogs would begin A-10 play in all sports starting with the 2013-2014 season, replacing departed Temple, who made the move to the Big East, and bringing the league’s membership to an even 14 teams, Katz wrote.
Almost two hours later, CBS blogger Gary Parrish published 289 words that added nothing of value to the conversation but seemed to question the move. This after knower of all things Butler basketball, David Woods, blogged the day before that, with nothing really certain in the age of constant re-alignment, “The Atlantic 10 needs Butler more than Butler needs the Atlantic 10.”
So do the Bulldogs really have what it takes to make the move from perennial one-bid mid to the A-10, which has received three or more bids to the NCAA tournament every season since ’08? Yes. Here are five reasons (with actual numbers).
1. The money is there. As Andy Glockner tweeted, Butler spent more on its basketball program last season ($3,541,122) than all but two current A-10 members: Dayton ($3,810,320) and Richmond ($4,056,940).
That’s good since the Horizon will likely charge the Bulldogs an as-yet-unnamed exit fee, and the costs of travelling to A-10 campus sites (eight of which are more than 500 miles away), will cost $500,000 per year according to Woods’ calculations.
2. The Butler-Xavier rivalry already is in place. The Bulldogs and the Musketeers have met during non-conference play during each of the last four seasons, re-igniting a rivalry that stretches back to an era when the two teams both played in the Midwestern City Conference. Both have been the emblematic face for their respective conference over the past several seasons, and now both will be pitted to meet in conference play.
Thad Matta left his post at Butler after one season to take the open head coaching job at Xavier in 2002. That probably has nothing to do with anything.
Brad Stevens talked about witnessing that rivaly as a youth and what it meant to him then when he spoke with the guys at Victory Firelight this past December.
“It really has (turned into a strong rivalry). I have to admit, when I was growing up, the Butler game I would go to every year with my dad or my mom would be the Xavier game. That’s when Xavier had the Brian Grants of the world, they had Tyrone Hill, they had Derek Strong – they were going through their great run through the MCC (conference) in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. I really, really respect their program the way they have just kept it going. They’ve had a few years where they haven’t been as good as they hoped they’d be, but for the most part, they’ve had such a consistent run. Any time you’re preparing to play a program like that, it’s certainly something you look forward to from a competitive standpoint – but it also really adds to the degree of rivalry this has become and the past three games have been unbelievable.”
3. The facilities are old but impressive. The Horizon League and Butler Athletics marketing departments refuse to let media forget that Hinkle Fieldhouse is a part of basketball history. The sprawling building, constructed in 1928, spent 20 years as the nation’s largest basketball arena and originally had room for 15,000 blue-bedecked fans. Recent renovations have cut that to 10,000, but that’s still bigger than all but four A-10 arenas (those of Temple, Xavier, St. Louis and Dayton).
4. The reputation is there. In five seasons Brad Stevens has steered his program to four NCAA appearances (surpassed only by Xavier in the A-10) and two National runner-ups. I think that’s enough.
Recruits have taken note. No A-10 team can claim a recruit in ESPN’s list of the top 100 for the 2012 class, while Butler has Kellen Dunham, a 6-8 two-guard ranked 78th in his class. It remains to be seen whether Torian Graham (ranked 90th on that list) will attend Xavier, NC State, Louisville, Oregon or Memphis.
5. Pomeroy agrees. Butler’s season-ending Pomeoy rating (.6425) ranked 110th in the nation, in a year in which Stevens was rebuilding to replace the mystical driving techniques of Matt Howard and the backcourt prowess of Shelvin Mack. Pomeroy arrives at that rating through a variety of tempo-free metrics that essentially level the playing field for easy comparison of all 345 D-I teams.That ranking would put Butler at a respectable 10th in the A-10.
The Bulldogs were ranked 41st at the end of the 2010-’11 season, good for second place in the A-10, behind Temple (38th).