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Butler just can’t shake being a mid-major

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Win a conference game? Why not storm the court.

NCAA Basketball: Villanova at Butler
“Yay, we won a conference game in January!”
Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

Butler presents themselves, rightfully, as really good basketball team and program. I want to get that out there early because: a) it’s hard to say without nausea and b) it’s rather the point of this article. As you may be aware, Butler fans stormed the barn floor court after their Bulldogs, a team most of them discovered this decade, beat the #1 ranked and defending national champion Villanova Wildcats. Of course, local hacks took the opportunity to point out how absolutely necessary and justified this action was because, after all, it had never happened before.

Flash back with me, if you will, to last February 24th. Then, a Big East team also ranked in the top 25 knocked off a heavily favored Villanova squad at home for the first time in school history. Fans applauded, players celebrated, students cheered. The court remained blissfully clear. Why? Because of a sense of occasion. For one, it was conference play, not even the conference tournament. It was a game against a familiar foe that will be repeated again ad infinitum. Butler is ranked 18th right now in AP, 16th in the KenPom rankings. The Bulldogs are a very good team in a very good conference, and they have been for some time.

More on that. The Big East is the third best conference in the nation, behind only the Big 12 and ACC, and clear of the Big 10 and SEC by an opening space. There is one bad team in the Big East, and it isn’t Butler. This isn’t the A10, the eighth best conference, or the Horizon League, the 20th. This was a matchup of two major powers in a major conference, akin to UK/Florida, Duke/UNC, or UCLA/Arizona. Despite, the denizens of our fair barn saw fit to come running onto the court as if they were IPFW beating Indiana.

And no, there’s nothing wrong with a good court storming. I participated in one once. No need for anyone to get off my lawn. But if you storm the court when you are ranked in the top 25, when you beat a team in your conference that you still have to play one more time what message are you sending? That this was unexpected, that Butler over Villanova is still a big upset, that insecurity runs deep in drafty hovels near Indianapolis, that deep down in places we don’t talk about at parties, we are afraid we don’t belong here. Mid-majors storm the court when they beat the big guys, teams and programs that genuinely think they belong in the major conferences don’t.