Move over Gonzaga, there is a new dog that is best in show—and its name is Butler.
The Butler Bulldogs grinded out a 74-71 overtime victory Saturday in New Orleans to punch their ticket back to the Final Four. Last year, Butler went all the way to the National Championship Game and was a miracle shot away from winning the title.
Gonzaga certainly has made their presence known throughout the years by making it to 13 straight NCAA Tournaments and constantly giving ranked teams from power conferences all it could handle. However, those Bulldogs have never made the Final Four and have made the Elite Eight only once since 1999.
Butler may not have Gonzaga’s longevity, but it has made good use of its five consecutive trips to the tournament.
In 2007, Butler made it to the Sweet 16 after beating Old Dominion and Maryland, before losing to Florida. After that season, then-coach Todd Lickliter decided to take the Iowa job and the school decided to take a shot from within. Butler’s choice was a young, 30-year-old assistant named Brad Stevens.
After not getting past the first weekend of the tournament in 2008 and 2009, Stevens guided his team to the improbable title run in 2010.
Who is Now the Best Mid-Major in College Basketball?
This year’s Butler team opened up the season ranked No. 18, but struggled without Gordon Hayward and sat at 14-9 on Feb. 3. However, the Bulldogs stormed back to win its final seven regular season games and the Horizon League tournament en route to an No. 8 seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament.
Strong leadership by senior Matt Howard and junior Shelvin Mack allowed Butler to win close in all four of its tournament games for its return trip to the Final Four and a shot unfinished business from last year.
Even without a title, Butler’s run this year is even more impressive than last year and it has put itself as the top mid-major program out there, and I believe Stevens is committed to make sure his Bulldogs stay there with his youthful wisdom leading the way.
To be honest, I do not think this program will be going away anytime soon and it will take a lot for the next mid-major to surpass them.