Even with the back-to-back Final Four runs of 2010 and 2011, and all the pub and national recognition that followed, Butler was still a hit-or-miss product when it came to national television exposure.
It's not like the Bulldogs were completely out of sight, but the team simply didn't have many high-profile games that landed them on CBS or ESPN in coveted spots. However, the program's move to the Big East is affording the Bulldogs a chance to be seen more than ever before.
It'll likely be a needed boost of momentum for the program, which lost Brad Stevens (kind of out of nowhere) to the Boston Celtics this summer and will be led by first-year coach Brandon Miller. According to a Fort Wayne News-Sentinel story, Butler will have 28 of its games broadcast on national or regional TV for 2013-14. The program is getting this opportunity because of its conference jump and the fact Fox Sports 1 bought the rights to Big East games.
Butler released its schedule on Tuesday, and as was the case when Stevens was building the team into something special and transcendent, the slate is challenging and ambitious. More from the News-Sentinel.
Over the past decade, the Butler schedule has been dotted with an occasional game against a nationally-prominent program, however, that level of team visiting Hinkle Fieldhouse is a rare occurrence. Not anymore. The Bulldogs will host programs such as Georgetown (Jan. 11), Marquette (Feb. 18), Creighton (Feb. 13) and Villanova (Dec. 31) from the NCAA tournament, and Providence (Feb. 23) and St. John's (Jan. 25) from the NIT.
Miller's team will face each Big East opponent twice during the regular season and the conference tournament will be played Mar. 12-15 at Madison Square Garden in New York. Butler will have 15 games televised on Fox Sports 1, three games on Fox Sports 2 and three games on Fox Sports Networks. Additionally, the Bulldogs will have one game on CBS, two games on CBS Sports Network, three games on the ESPN family of networks and one game on the Big Ten Network in 2013-14. The entire Big East Tournament will be televised on Fox Sports 1.
It's a good thing for Butler and for college basketball, because I maintain these kind of programs -- when they're good in the regular season -- do bring a dollop of casual fan interest as well. The problem for Butler is, the team could very well struggle to make the NCAA tournament. Losing Stevens is big enough. Arguably the team's most talented player, Chrishawn Hopkins, transferred to Wright State. The team's best returning player, Roosevelt Jones, broke his wrist this summer and will miss the season.
"Looking at our schedule, obviously there are many challenges ahead of us," Miller said in a statement. "We've always tried to put together a schedule that fits our current team, and I think that's what this year's schedule does. We'll be tested in the non-conference and we'll certainly face a whole new set of challenges in the Big East."
Butler will play Purdue in the always-good Crossroads Classic and is involved in the Old Spice Classic, which will have at least two top-25 teams in Memphis and Oklahoma State. It'll be a different kind of Butler this season, and one you'll see more of than ever before.