You know what's tougher than beating Xavier in Cincinnati?
Getting out of Cincinnati after beating Xavier.
"I'm just trying to navigate through this weather," Butler coach Brad Stevens said by phone, from the cold and rainy streets of Cincinnati, after his Bulldogs beat 14th-ranked Xavier 74-65 on Tuesday night. "It's nasty up here."
Portland State's win at No. 7 Gonzaga took a little of the spotlight off Butler, but the reality is this: The Bulldogs are now 10-1 with the lone loss coming at 15th-ranked Ohio State, and because they don't play again until Dec. 30 they will almost certainly be ranked in next Monday's AP poll, which will be quite an accomplishment for a team that lost five of the top seven scorers from a 30-win team and was picked fifth in the Horizon League.
Did you get that?
This team was picked fifth in the Horizon League.
But the Bulldogs got a win over Horizon favorite Cleveland State in early December, and now they have this signature non-league victory to go with it. So the obvious question for Stevens late Tuesday was how? How is this second-year coach off to another 10-1 start despite a totally different roster?
"It's not me," Stevens said, but I'm not sure I believe him, because I watch a lot of college basketball and tear through tons of rosters, and I know what usually happens when a 30-win team loses five of its top seven scorers. Rather, I know what doesn't usually happen, and what doesn't usually happen are 10-1 starts featuring road wins over top 15 teams, and if you don't believe me call Bill Self, John Calipari or Ben Howland and ask them if they'd take 10-1 with a road win over a top 15 opponent.
Betcha they'd all say yes. So that should prove that what Stevens is doing is both unique and impressive, and that he's doing it while starting three freshmen around a better-than-the-nation-realizes sophomore named Matt Howard borders on unbelievable.
"We've got good, mature guys, even though they're young," Stevens said. "Even the young guys who have never been here before always prioritize team above self, and that's given us a chance to start off well."
No argument here.
But take some credit yourself, Brad.
Because back-to-back 10-1 starts with totally different rosters is not something anybody could do.