Over the past 15 years, Butler basketball has traditionally ramped up its momentum at this time of year. That is not the case this season, as the Bulldogs were left out of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2005. However, according to ESPN reports, some very positive news is brewing along 46th and Sunset.
Butler has known since last Saturday that it wouldn't participate in the NCAA and it learned Sunday evening that it wouldn't be invited to the secondary NIT either. The Bulldogs have been relegated to the insignificant College Basketball Invitational, where it will host Delaware on Wednesday (8 p.m.).
Butler coach Brad Stevens has displayed a strong front in his quotes regarding the Blue Hens and his team's appearance in the CBI, but rest assured, it is a front, nonetheless.
However, the Bulldog basketball program may be in the process of rectifying its current state of affairs. ESPN has reported that “according to multiple sources” Butler has indicated an interest in replacing departing Temple in the Atlantic 10 Conference.
The Owls will leave that league following next season.
After being featured in every relevant news and sports publication in the country over the past 24 months, it's hard to imagine that Butler could think of itself as needing to upgrade its exposure. However, that is precisely what joining the A-10 would do for the university and the basketball program.
The A-10 has programs in the major markets of New York, Washington, DC, and Philadelphia, along with the secondary markets of St. Louis, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Charlotte.
Though its current membership in the Horizon League brings its program exposure in Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland and Milwaukee, Butler's visibility would reach a far broader audience in the A-10.
From a basketball standpoint, Butler would also be upgrading its situation.
The Horizon League is rated as the 14th strongest league in the NCAA, while the A-10 is regarded as the seventh best conference.
Eight teams in the A-10 won at least 20 games this season, and that production brings a reputation, which pays dividends in early March when seeking post-season berths into the NCAA and NIT events.
This year proved to be a down year for the Horizon League and it received just one bid (Detroit) into the NCAA Tournament. There have been years (nine) when the league has gotten multiple bids, but three times in the past five seasons the conference only got its tournament champion in.
In contrast, the A-10 has sent at least four teams into the NCAA Tournament in a given year on six different occasions. This year eight programs from the conference got at least an invite into the NIT.
For Bulldog fans that remember the sting of 2002, when Butler won 25 games, the Horizon League regular season championship, but were upset in the league tournament and sent to the NIT, the security of a multi-bid league sounds quite appealing.
Over the past 15 years, Butler has demonstrated the ability to compete with teams from higher profile leagues, and it would be more difficult to do so on a nightly basis, rather than just on occasion. But the Bulldogs would prove to be competitive within the A-10 immediately, and its inclusion would only strengthen the recruiting efforts of the Butler coaches in the future.
The Bulldog fans don't have a lot to get excited about in anticipation of the possibility of raising a CBI banner later this month. But something of far greater significance could be looming on the horizon - and not in the Horizon – and that should excite those fans very much.