A quick Sunday rundown of all the best reads about everyone's favorite team: the Butler Bulldogs.
But he's making good money and he's got the best job in a league at a school that's now a national brand, and he's practically guaranteed to achieve a certain level of success as long as he remains in Indianapolis. Plus, as previously noted, he's young. So there's no reason to rush into anything.
Stevens will never leave Butler for Oklahoma or Missouri or Tennessee or any program like that. The day he leaves Butler will be the day a top-tier program with every built-in advantage imaginable has an opening and makes him an offer -- something like North Carolina, Duke, UCLA, Kansas or, of course, Indiana. Till then, Stevens will keep winning Horizon titles, one after another. He might lose games in November and December, and in January and February, too. But Stevens has proven he's capable of molding young men into a team that can compete with anybody come March.
He doesn't need a better job, a bigger league or a fake ID.
He just needs to be put in the bracket.
College players might tire of hearing coaches tell them: “Prepare every day. Be ready. Focus. You never know when your time might come.” But Stevens and his staff repeat that often, and their statements are affirmed by moments like this.
Coincidentally, I was talking to director of basketball operations Darnell Archey about Hopkins on Friday. Archey said this tournament run was supplying invaluable experience for Hopkins and that the freshman was soaking it in.
Against Florida, Hopkins did more than that.
Last year at this time, Butler was this cute, cuddly come-from-nowhere "Hoosiers" story, Cinderella in baggy shorts, the midmajor doing it for all the other midmajors that never got the chance. The team was viewed as a novelty, like Indiana State and Larry Bird in 1979. Surely, the finals run would mark its 15 minutes of fame.
Uh, not really.
Now, the Bulldogs are back again, and they're as cuddly as a dyspeptic grizzly.
And when two teams head into games with a clean slate, Butler has an advantage. Stevens is one of the best coaches in the country, the Bulldogs always execute well offensively and defend their tails off at the other end. The stars may change, but the system doesn’t.
Butler knows how to win in March -- even if it struggles in January or February.
Sounds just like one particular Big Ten power. Maybe Butler's Final Four win over Michigan State last year was more than just another national semifinal win.
Maybe it was a passing of the torch.
Still, despite that confidence and a swagger that wasn’t there in 2010 — Mack went as far as to do the Gator chomp in the direction of Bulldogs fans after snipping his piece of the net — there is an underlying feeling that Butler’s Final Four journey is even more surreal the second time around. Last year’s appearance in Indianapolis was a hometown fairytale, all but the ending; this year’s appearance in Houston comes with no perfect storyline and no perfect explanation.
Graves and his fellow assistant coaches, Shrewsberry and Terry Johnson, retreated to a side room off the main locker room once the team finished its traditional Butler War Song in celebration of the victory. The coaches took seats on folding chairs and looked around at each other, barely able to speak for five minutes. Overwhelmed by euphoria and shock, all they could do was laugh and shake their heads, mustering only a few “wows” over what had transpired. They’d be arriving at Reliant Stadium in a few days, with another shot at the title, another shot for Butler to make history as a mid-major champion.