Bold Predictions: The Butler Bulldogs Will Not Go to the NCAA Basketball Final
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For the second straight year the defending national runner up has been beaten by Evansville.
Butler is that runner up, but in its 80-77 overtime loss in Evansville on Saturday, the Bulldogs showed that they are far from the same team they were a season ago.
Evansville is a team full of juniors and seniors, and Butler is very inexperienced, but Evansville is picked to finish fifth in the Missouri Valley Conference, and the loss won't help any at-large hopes the Bulldogs might have come March.
Chrishawn Hopkins was a very little-used guard during Butler's national title run last year. He led Butler in scoring with 22 points against the Purple Aces. Andrew Smith, one of three returning starters had 21. They were the only two Bulldogs in double figures.
Now this is still "mighty Butler." One loss to a lower level mid-major isn't enough to ever count them out.
But I will make a BOLD prediction regarding the Bulldogs.
They are not going to make another run to the final four, and they very well may not make the NCAA tournament. That would be a first in six years for Butler, a team that has won 13 NCAA tournament games in the past half decade.
This sounds like the words of a normal Butler critic. Let's face it, there is no Matt Howard, no Shelvin Mack and no Gordon Hayward. There is only one senior who gets substantial playing time in point guard Ronald Nored, a non threat on the offensive end.
in 2010-11, Butler sometimes started three seniors. This just isn't the same team led by Hopkins, Smith, Nored and a handful of newcomers who watched the Bulldogs run to the championship on television.
Here is my next BOLD prediction: Brad Stevens is creating a monster at Butler, and they will be back in the national championship game soon.
With amazing tournament runs come some serious losses.
The Bulldogs are seeing what the major programs go through when they lose underclassmen to the NBA. That extra exposure also brings more highly rated recruits.
Butler added four top-200 recruits this season, as well as two more for 2012-13. Transfer Rotnei Clarke, Arkansas's leading scorer from a year ago, will be eligible next season. Clarke cited Butler's style of play and the way Stevens runs his program for his decision.
Why else will Butler be back at the top of the college basketball world before we know it?
Well, there just aren't any great college basketball teams anymore. The last two years the Bulldogs lost national championship games to powerhouse programs.
Duke starred Kyle Singler and Jon Scheyer. Connecticut featured Kemba Walker. They weren't the same Duke and UConn teams with stars like Grant Hill, Christian Laettner, Ray Allen or Richard Hamilton. Butler wouldn't have belonged on the same court. But now they do, and it won't change.
The one-and-done players at all of the major programs leave the door open for these mid-major schools. Butler has a head start. Butler has the brand name. Butler has the results.
Gonzaga has been on the college basketball scene for a while, but never have they flirted with the final four. That is how impressive Butler's accomplishments are.
Brad Stevens is building a monster in Indianapolis, and in the scheme of things Saturday's loss to Evansville is barely a blip on the radar.
Butler won't make the final four this year—neither will over 300 other college basketball teams in America. The fact that I am even writing this article is a testament to where Stevens has taken the Butler program.
They are rebuilding for the future, and will be back to the top of the college basketball world before we know it.
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