Being an Indiana boy and naturally hating Duke I fell in love with the Butler Bulldogs once my top two favorite teams were knocked out of the big dance (Kansas Jayhawks and Purdue Boilermakers).  I admit that it was just a love affair with the Bulldogs.  I never really invested much into Butler but found myself none the less rooting for them in the national championship game.  It’s no lie that Gordon Hayward was their team leader and helped them to their surprising runner up finish in the 2009-2010 season.  So, it is that much of a surprise to the Bulldog’s rocky start in the 2010-2011 season?

Not at all.  Last years team was same George Mason team that made it to the final four a few years back.  Coming out of the Horizon League I really didn’t know much about Butler and had them losing in the sweet sixteen.  I know my Indiana boys can play some ball but I’m not that confident in my small town schools, yet.  However, I don’t think the Bulldogs are suffering from the hangover from their title run just a season ago.  I think their early season struggles are due more in part to the departure of the sophomore stud Gordon Hayward.  He was the staple and glue of the team last season.

I’m not knocking Butler or giving up on them. I’m simply putting their season into perspective.  Their preseason ranking at #18 in the country I thought was a little ridiculous.  ESPN had to know they were wrong.  They probably just felt obligated to put the runner up in the top 25, the only problem I have with ESPN.  I’m not totally surprised by Butler’s rocky start but I still think the Bulldogs will start playing much better come conference play.

3 of Butler’s 4 losses come to solid teams; Louisville, #1 Duke, and Xavier.  After an impressive victory against Washington State I see a bright future for the Bulldogs.  Do I think they’re going back to replay Duke in the National Championship game? Not at all.  But I think the Bulldogs are making their way back into Horizon League champ form.  Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack need to step up and I think they showed their ability to do so this past weekend in Hawaii in the Diamond Head Classic tournament.  This, to me, is an important step before entering conference play coming up soon this coming week.  Some more good news for the Bulldogs is that Zach Hahn started hitting some big shots in their victory over Washington State Saturday night.

Personally, I don’t see Butler making another Cinderella run.  But, I can see them competing with Valparaiso for the Horizon League Championship.  And with Butler’s rocky start, winning the Horizon League is the only way I see them making the big dance come March.  Butler has a solid team and some very good athletes but, I don’t really consider them to be “back” with the big dogs and don’t really feel like they ever were “with” the big dogs.  I expect big things from the Bulldogs but think it would be completely unrealistic to expect to seem them back in the National Title game…..

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