The landscape of college basketball is changing. Every year, we are witnessing more and more of teams from smaller schools become more and more dominant. Programs like Wichita State, VCU, Gonzaga, and Butler have grown throughout the decade and are a constant presence in the NCAA Tournament.
We are at a point where it is even debatable to call these schools “mid-majors” considering they compete with the top programs every single year. But as it has shown, not everyone is ready to always accept the teams that have been historically on the outside looking in on the college elite.
While the debate is still ongoing about calling some of these programs “mid-majors,” it shouldn’t be for the Butler Bulldogs. They have made it.
Ever since they burst on the scene with their run to the National Championship Game in 2010, the Bulldogs have gotten used to playing in March. They became the face of the so-called “mid major” schools during their back-to-back appearances to the National Championship Game, where they sadly fell short in both of those games, with one of them coming against a former Big East team in Kemba Walker and UConn.
As CBS announcer Jim Nantz said before their game against Duke, “The Bulldogs will take all the hopes of all the small schools to Monday night.” (quote acquired via the IndyStar).
They were the product of what many small programs aspire to be.
In fact since 2007, the Bulldogs have made the tournament eight times and only missed the tournament in 2012 and 2014. But when they do make it, they usually stay until the weekend. They have won a total of six games in March and only lost in the Round of 64 once since 2007, which happened in 2009 when they lost 75-71 to LSU.
They began to get more respect from the committee as well in that the Bulldogs haven’t been ranked as a double-digit seed since 2003 when they made the Sweet 16 as a 12 seed. BU has been a model of consistency for many basketball programs who don’t always get the spotlight during the regular season but perform during March.
Now Butler is in a big time conference, the Big East, and is still flexing their muscles. Their first season was tough, having achieved their first losing record in almost a decade. But they have picked it up since then. Now, the Bulldogs have made back-to-back-to-back tournament appearances in a league that produced last year’s champion (Villanova) and currently one of the Elite Eight (Xavier).
They not be dominating the conference, but after being top dogs in the Horizon League and a brief sting in the Atlantic 10, it takes some time for the Bulldogs to get used to the craziness of the Big East. Even if that adjustment takes about five or so years.
It’s certainly time to stop noting Butler a “mid-major” once and for all. They have come a long way from that team that reached the championship game in 2010. They are now in a major conference and starting achieving constant success against solid programs. Such as this year when they swept both Villanova and Xavier in the Big East regular season.
It may not be Brad Stevens roaming the sidelines or Gordon Hayward lighting up defenses, but there is still that same Butler magic in the air. But it’s not mid-major anymore. It’s legit.