Butler Coach Brad Stevens with the ESPN Gameday crew (From L: Jalen Rose, Jay Bilas, Rece Davis and Digger Phelps (Photo: ESPN)

Butler Coach Brad Stevens with Gameday crew (From L: Jalen Rose, Jay Bilas, Rece Davis and Digger Phelps (Photo: ESPN)

rakes_take_400True to form, Brad Stevens wouldn’t say a word about Gonzaga until his team had taken care of business against Richmond on Wednesday. Less than 15 minutes removed from Butler’s 15-point A-10 on Wednesday, Stevens allowed himself to talk not just about the game with the ‘Zags, but as to the atmosphere, attention, and greater meaning of today’s full day of festivities.

“This is another item you can check off the bucket list for your program,” said Stevens in the post-game press conference on Wednesday. “We’ve been to Final Fours and national title games, Madison Square Garden and Maui. On this they’ve got to ask to you, you can’t schedule this.”

Doors opened at 8a this morning, and the center of the collegiate basketball world goes live from Hinkle Fieldhouse at 11a. Does the hoops version of the show carry the cache of its older-brother football edition? No. Lee Corso won’t be switching mascot heads from Bulldog to Bulldog at the conclusion of the show.

But it still helps Butler University tell its story of turning into a well-known product and program in this state to being a nationally-known brand. Since the Final Four runs in 2010 and ’11, enrollment applications in to Butler have increased by 43 percent. National exposure has increased for the program. Schools like Louisville and Ohio State come play at Hinkle, something that seemed unimaginable 10 years ago.

And the Bulldogs have made the move to the Atlantic 10 based on being a national brand. They appear to be a hot commodity for the ‘Catholic Seven,’ the basketball-only members of the Big East who are about to leave the conference. If that move is made, Butler is looking at seven-figure television revenue per year.

ESPN produces 10 of these types of shows per year for hoops. Just like the company it keeps in the rankings and teams they play, College Gameday is an honor for the elite in college hoops. Butler is now one of those programs.

But they’ll never shy away from their roots. And one of the identifiers of this program before lengthy trips into March happened on a regular basis was always Hoosiers. It was recreated last year when the Dan Patrick Show visited Indy as part of Super Bowl 46. You’ll see some Hickory High images mixed in with Butler imagery tonight. It’s part of the legacy and lore of the building.

But when the ball is tipped tonight at Hinkle, this isn’t about ‘winning one for all the small schools that never had a chance to get here.’ It’s about two top 15 teams playing each other. It’s a showdown between two of the top three schools in the rankings that do not play major college football (Creighton is ranked between Gonzaga and Butler).

Until then, Butler fans and Indiana sports fans in general, enjoy the ride and attention. Today is a reward for the journey that Butler basketball has taken over its history, and especially the last 15 years. The morning show and the evening game are the next step in the process.

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One Response to One more item crossed off Butler’s bucket list

  1. What a well said article. As a Butler Alumni, graduated in 2005, I never imagined the success this team would have. I mean back in those years that I was there, I thought those were great teams. We had runs in the tourney and just provided that little school that could attitude. Then when the team reached the Final Four in Indianapolis, you knew this team and this school was something special. I will always remember where I was when that happened and how it was a moment that you couldn’t recreate even if you wanted to.

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