INDIANAPOLIS – So what does Brad Stevens do in the aftermath of a national runner-up finish? Does the Butler coach stay a Bulldog and keep the roll going (88 victories in the last three years), or should he take a better-paying, higher-profile job certain to come his way?
“We have to define what we want,” Stevens said in the aftermath of Monday night's 61-59 loss to Duke. “We all have to figure out what is best. We've got a very good thing here.”
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski had some advice. He, too, has fielded lucrative offers over the years. He just shot down talk about going to the NBA's New Jersey Nets.
“He has the opportunity to coach at a place where he believes in the values and believes in the school. I think he already believes that with Butler. I would tell him to stay put … they should pay him more.”
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Assuming no one gets injured or leaves for the NBA (can you say sophomore forward Gordon Hayward?), Butler will return four starters from its 33-5 team. It will lose only two key contributors (forwards Willie Veasley and Avery Jukes). It will bring in a solid freshman class (6-1 guard Crishawn Hopkins, 6-9 forward Erik Fromm and 6-7 Khyle Marshall).
“Somebody's gonna pick the top 10 for next year, and where are you gonna put Butler?” Krzyzewski asked. “Yeah, right up there, No. 1 or No. 2. They were a top-10 team all year. They'll be a favorite next year.”
He got no argument from Blue Devils guard Jon Scheyer.
“That team was so tough,” he said. “It's the toughest game we played all year. I can't imagine what they're feeling. They gave everything they had.”
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How will this season affect the future of Butler basketball?
“Can it get any better than these guys?” Stevens asked. “They were one shot away from winning a national championship. If this furthers the program, it can't further it by much.
“This doesn't mean we're going to get results like this. We caught lightning in a bottle and ran with it the last 25 games. We almost had an aura of thinking we were going to win every game.”
Krzyzewski said this season will change Butler.
“Butler will no longer be what is has been, which is pretty darn good. Everything that's good about Butler, which are many things, will now have a chance to be seen in many areas, not just basketball, that people would not have seen Butler in before.
“So what can this do for a school that's really good? I just think it's scary good.”
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Mid-major teams aren't expected to contend for national championships. Since the NCAA tourney field went to 64 teams in 1985, only two mid-majors have reached the Final Four — George Mason in 2006 and Butler this year. What effect could this championship game have on future mid-major prospects?
“Anything can happen in a basketball game,” Stevens said. “You can't hold Duke to a standard of perfection throughout the year. Sometimes they're going to play poorly, sometimes they'll play great, most of the time they'll be as good as they are.
“I hope what comes out of this … I'll use Siena as an example. They went 17-1 in their league. Everyone was saying they had to win their league tournament to get into the NCAA. Well, 17-1 is an unbelievable achievement. I hope this brings to light that teams like that should not have to play perfect. They should not be held to that standard. There are a lot of good teams in and out of the power six conferences.”