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Butler finds success against in-state rivals 'fun'

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For more on college basketball, follow Tom Davis via Twitter at www.twitter.com/Tom101010.

New Bulldog coach wants Classic to continue

Sunday, December 15, 2013 - 9:11 pm

INDIANAPOLIS – You won’t have to sell Brandon Miller on the notion of keeping a Saturday each December open for future Crossroads Classics. The Butler men’s basketball coach loves the entire concept of the event – and why wouldn’t he? After all, the Bulldogs are the only one of the four participating teams that have never lost a game in the event. Not that they haven’t been close to doing so.

“What a terrific event,” Miller said after experiencing his first one. “You talk about the programs that are playing, the atmosphere, and you have a tournament-like atmosphere.”

Butler got by Purdue Saturday in front of a sold-out (18,165 fans) Bankers Life Fieldhouse and competing with in-state rivals has to be considered a contributing factor in the post-season success that this program has enjoyed in recent years. Plus, it’s a lot of fun for the players.

“I’ve grown up playing against a lot of these guys,” Butler sophomore guard Kellen Dunham said. “It’s fun to compete against them. I look forward to playing against them each time.”

The Bulldogs (8-2) beat the Boilermakers (8-3) on a last-second tip by Andrew Smith two years ago after rallying from 15 points down, and last season’s epic upset of then No. 1-ranked Indiana was a season highlight – perhaps until the Gonzaga victory a month later. In comparison to the past two Classic victories, Butler’s third consecutive win (76-70 over Purdue on Saturday) was relatively easy.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Butler senior forward Khyle Marshall said. “It’s the best four teams in Indiana (though Indiana State might take offense to that after beating Notre Dame in South Bend earlier this season) coming into one facility.”

Indiana and Notre Dame have each won twice in the event, while the Boilermakers have never won a game. But Marshall knows that Purdue has tried.

“All four teams try to come out with a win,” Marshall continued. “Just like we saw in Purdue, none of us are going to fold no matter what the obstacles are. All four teams are going to fight until that 40-minute buzzer goes off.”

Butler has been immersed in a bit of a mild controversy of late after it was announced that the Bulldogs would no longer schedule in-state rival Ball State, at least with alternating home games, in the near future. But Miller was emphatic on Saturday on his thoughts about continuing with this event moving forward.

“It’s sold out every single time we have it,” Miller said. “There is a respect between teams. There is a respect with the fans in terms of who is on the floor and who is competing against each other.

“I hope the event lasts for a very, very long time. We take great pride in any game that we are playing, but there is something special about this event.”