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Tag:Brad Stevens
Posted on: March 3, 2012 11:11 pm
Edited on: March 4, 2012 12:06 am

A note on Butler and the unrepeated future

Brad Stevens the Bulldogs pulled off something that likely won't be duplicated for decades. (US Presswire)

By Matt Norlander

This sounds so trite, but you know it's so true. It wasn't until it the body was cold and the clock was officially out of countdown, until the schedule was out chances, that we could count Butler out. How many times had we done that in the past two years? Easily a half-dozen. And then the Bulldogs kept on winning, winning until the national title game and taking down a lot more than basketball nets and basketball programs with five times the spending budget. They never won a national title, but getting there is nearly the same level of accomplishment for a school like Butler.

Tonight, the chances of the Bulldogs entertaining us and making us doubt them once again officially extinguished, as Valparaiso acted like the top seed that it is, defeating Brad Stevens' Butler team 65-46 in the semifinals of the Horizon League tournament. They're the fun story, the new brand of underdog for fans to flock to -- and they won't be in this year's NCAA tournament field. It's not sad or anything, it's just a change of guard in the Horizon League for at least a year, and merely a hiccup of a season for Butler, which should be back in the thick of things next season when a very good recruiting class arrives and senior sharpshooting transfer Rotnei Clarke is eligible for his one year of sniper service.

Butler finishes its wobbly season with a 20-14 record. It's probably going to get an invite to some postseason tournament, but for all intents and purposes, the Bulldogs' campaign ended tonight. Valpo -- who a decade ago was the synonym for small guy success stories in the NCAAs -- gets to play for its first tournament appearance in eight years Sunday. The semifinal result was a nice way to dovetail the story lines of two programs who very well could build a new rivalry, what with the Crusaders have their own young coach (Bryce Drew) to build their program with, too.

The Valpo narrative can wait, though. After all, it still has to win one more. So here's my primary takeaway from the end of the Butler story, for now. Picture it. It's 2030, and we're all reading our news off of folding tablet screens that unlock by command of a face scanner. Something has replaced Twitter. Mike Krzyzewski looks the same as he did in 2005, which is the same as he did in 1988. Jeff Borzello wears a wig to hide his ever-thinning hair, because scientists still haven't found a way to reverse balding. Some things can't be overcome. The NCAA's adoration for the RPI falls under this category too, I'm afraid.

My point is, it's going to 2030 and we're going to remember and look back on Butler with more awe than what we had in 2010 and 2011. Because, while we're inevitably going to have another team from outside a major conference win a national title, we're not going to have a team come from a small league and make two straight national title games. Butler will have no peer in that regard for the next two decades. Brad Stevens will be there, Indianapolis, or at Indiana, or UCLA -- or maybe even Duke. He'll be climbing up the all-time wins list and cementing himself as one of the greats of all-time.

And he'll probably never come close to accomplishing something as unlikely as what he and his team did the past two years. Think about your impression of Butler the night it was two inches away from beating Duke in the most dramatic way in the history of the sport. And then how did you see this team in 2011? On the night Butler falls short of another chance at doing the improbable, our appreciation for that only grows. That appreciation will inflame, coincide and correlate with every team that falls well short of doing what this one did in the tournaments to come.


Posted on: February 23, 2012 4:11 pm

Butler's issue is perimeter shooting. Seriously.

By Jeff Goodman

It shocked me to hear the words. 

"Our biggest deal all year has been our inability to shoot it. We're one of the lowest teams in the country in 3's." 

That was courtesy of Brad Stevens. 

We've all come to expect that if there's one thing Stevens and the Butler Bulldogs can do, it's shoot the you-know-what out of the ball. 

But the Bulldogs are shooting a dismal 28 percent from beyond the arc this season. That checks in at 274th in the country. Wow. 

"We're shooting it better lately," Stevens said. "It's just taking a while for guys to get comfortable in their new roles." 

There's no star on this team. No Gordon Hayward. No Matt Howard. No Shelvin Mack. 

Junior gig man Andrew Smith leads the team at 10.6 points per game. No one else is in double figures. Khyle Marshall (9.3 ppg, 3.9 rpg) is having a solid season, but hasn't quite delivered what some had hoped as a sophomore. Fellow sophomore Chrishawn Hopkins has been up-and-down while freshman Roosevelt Jones has started 24 games and will be a fixture for this program. 

Butler goes into the regular-season finale at first-place Valparaiso with an 18-12 record and a half-game up on Cleveland State and Detroit for second place in the Horizon. 

Can these guys make a run in the Horizon league tourney and get back into the NCAA tournament -- where the Bulldogs have become the nation's ultimate Cinderella story each of the past two years?

"The tourney is up for grabs," he said. "But our road to the league championship is a long one -- and that's not always advantageous." 

The top two teams in the league earn a double-bye and right now Stevens didn't sound overly optimistic that the Bulldogs would be in that position. They lost both games to Detroit and split against Cleveland State -- the two teams that sit a half-game back at 10-6 in league play. 

Stevens will lose just one player in the rotation off this year's team: Senior point guard and leader Ronald Nored. Look at his numbers and it doesn't appear that Stevens & Co., will have a tough time replacing the Alabama native, but Nored brings defense and all the intangibles that have made this program so successful over the last few years. 

But Stevens will add someone that will immediately fix the team's perimeter shooting woes: Rotnei Clarke. 

The Arkansas transfer is arguably the best long-range shooter in the country. 

But that's next year -- and Stevens isn't quite ready to turn the page and give up on this group just yet. 

After the last two seasons, who can blame him?

Posted on: November 27, 2011 9:42 pm
Edited on: November 27, 2011 9:47 pm

Tom Crean gets biggest win in tenure over Butler

By Jeff Goodman

Tom Crean will sleep well tonight. Maybe he won't even have Brad Stevens nightmares any longer. 

The Indiana coach, in his fourth season since taking over one of the most storied programs in the country, watched his Hoosiers team pull away from Stevens'  Butler Bulldogs on Sunday night fr a 75-59 win. 

This was a huge victory for Crean. In fact, I'll go as far as to say it was the most important in his IU tenure, largely because he ended up on the winning end against Stevens - a guy who many still believe could wind up replacing him in Bloomington if the Hoosiers don't continue to make steady progress. 

Indiana had won five consecutive games to start the season, but it wasn't exactly Murderer's Row. 

The Hoosiers knocked off Stony Brook, Chattanooga, Evansville, Savannah State and Gardner-Webb - by an average of more than 25 points per game. 

Crean's group ran its record to 6-0 against a mediocre Butler team, but that was somewhat irrelevant. 

Because Crean had to win this one. 

He's jealous and/or envious of Stevens - just like nearly every other coach in America that has watched the Boy Wonder make two consecutive national title game appearances. But it's different for Crean because he's supposed to own the state - and yet it's been Butler who have been the darlings in Indiana. 

The win total has climbed from six to 10 to 12 over the first three years in the Crean Era - and the Hoosiers have gotten out of the gates without a blemish thus far. 

This team is more talented than the first three. Freshman Cody Zeller is a future pro, Will Sheehey, who went for a career-high 21 against Butler, has made significant strides since his freshman campaign and the backcourt of Verdell Jones and Jordan Hulls has been solid. Christian Watford no longer has to be "The Guy" and that's exactly what Crean needs in order to finish in the top half of the Big Ten. 

The schedule certainly gets more difficult over the next few weeks with N.C. State, Kentucky and Notre Dame on the slate prior to the start of Big Ten play. 

However, Crean needed this one. Badly.

Photo: AP
Posted on: November 3, 2011 12:52 am
Edited on: November 3, 2011 1:08 am

Butler loses exhibition to Division II school

By Gary Parrish

Last we saw the Butler Bulldogs they were making a run to a second straight national title game.

A third straight appearance this season seems unlikely for a variety of reasons.

A 53-50 loss to Northern State on Wednesday is among them.

"I guess we've got nowhere to go but up," Butler coach Brad Stevens told the Indianapolis Star's David Woods after the loss, and the superstar coach is pretty much right on with that assessment.

Now let's be honest: Though Butler is an impressive and accomplished program impossible not to pull for, it's hardly the type of place that can lose players like Gordon Hayward, Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack in a 13-month span and show no signs of it. For all its accomplishments, Butler is still a Horizon League school that's lost players early to the NBA Draft each of the past two years, and it's just hard to recover from that. So while I'm sure Stevens will get this group to play together and better by the time February rolls around -- and while I'm confident they'll win another Horizon championship, too -- the truth is that this is probably a transitional year for the program.

The Bulldogs have lost a lot of personnel since they played Duke for the 2010 title.

A slight slip was unavoidable.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: August 1, 2011 3:56 pm
Edited on: August 1, 2011 4:04 pm

Rotnei Clarke to play for Brad Stevens at Butler

By Jeff Goodman

After nearly pulling the trigger for Oklahoma, Rotnei Clarke has decided to transfer to Butler.

The 6-foot Oklahoma native, who has been methodical with his recruitment after finally being released by Mike Anderson and Arkansas in June, made the decision on Monday.

``It just felt like the best fit for me,” Clarke told ``It was a tough decision, especially with me being from Oklahoma.”

``Coach (Brad) Stevens is an unbelievable guy and obviously, they’ve had tremendous success the last few years,” he added. ``I really liked the players on the team. They seemed like more than just teammates.”

Clarke will sit out this season and have one year left of eligibility with Brad Stevens and the Bulldogs.

He is arguably the top perimeter shooter in the nation and has expanded his game over the past year. He averaged 15.2 points last season and shot nearly 44 percent from beyond the arc and put up 21.4 points and shot 52 percent from long distance over the final eight games of the season.

Clarke was leaning toward committing to Lon Kruger and the Sooners. However, sources told the uncertainty regarding whether the Sooners would face any NCAA sanctions in the wake of an investigation swayed Clarke to Butler.

``I really believe Coach Kruger will turn the program around quickly,” Clarke said. ``And while I was told that the NCAA decision wouldn’t affect me, it wasn’t guaranteed. I didn’t know that for sure  - and didn’t want to go there without knowing 100 percent.”

Clarke will likely see time at both backcourt spots for the Bulldogs. Butler will lose senior point guard Ronald Nored after this season.

``I’m hoping to work on being a point guard in the year off,” Clarke said. ``I know I need a lot of work on it – but I’m hoping I can really improve and be able to play both spots at Butler.” 

Photo: AP
Posted on: April 5, 2011 8:38 pm

Will Calhoun and Stevens stay put?

Posted by Eric Angevine

It’s not often we spend time wondering if coaches who play for the national title will stick around, but this has been an unusual season that way. There are legitimate reasons why either Jim Calhoun or Brad Stevens might leave a cushy nest feathered with elite play after this season, so let’s look at the gears that are grinding in Storrs and Indianapolis.

Jim Calhoun

The thought process surrounding Calhoun possibly leaving the University of Connecticut goes something like this: he’s old and the sherriff’s after him. The man is 68, he has three national titles under his belt and he’s already in the Hall of Fame. Why continue to drive that nail? UNC head coach Roy Williams went on the Dan Patrick Show today and advised Calhoun to “go to Hilton Head and tee it up and relax and enjoy your grandchildren.” Obviously, ol’ Roy can be counted on to dispense accurate advice about golf, but his own self-interest in chasing a third title of his own might not make him the best arbiter of another coach’s future plans.

The rest of the question is: should Calhoun run before the NCAA smites him? There’s still plenty of concern around the program that things could get ugly in that regard, so doesn’t it make sense to step down rather than risk getting caught in the mess? Sure, another guy runs, but Calhoun likes to fight even when it doesn’t make sense to battle on. The cantankerous fellow famously refused to accept his slap on the wrist – a three-game suspension -- from college basketball’s governing body this fall. He fights everything all the time. It’s what makes him a great coach, but the old expression will tell you that only a fool fights in a burning house.

So, if we were to take odds on Calhoun retiring one step ahead of the law, an eminently sensible move, we’d have to guess that there isn’t a chance in Hades of such a result happening. The former stonecutter will have to be carried kicking and screaming out of the arena if he’s going to go.

Brad Stevens

Here, the assumption is that Stevens will follow the lure of big money to another job. Obviously, Butler is pretty much THE plum mid-major job at this point, but American culture is built upon upward mobility. The conventional wisdom says that nobody turns down the big bucks when they're offered. Thad Matta didn't, and he's now coaching the elite Ohio State Buckeyes. Todd Lickliter didn't, and he's... not so busy these days, since Iowa fired him after a horrific run.

That's where things get confusing for Stevens. Is it worth messing with the good thing he has? Back-to-back Final Fours? Matta can't say that. Heck, only Tom Izzo and Ben Howland have recent experience on that score, and look how hard it was for them to maintain that level even with all the money in the world at their disposal. At last accounting, Butler poured 2.8 million into basketball at the small private school, putting them 98th overall in hoops expenditures. That's right in the range of most A-10 schools, but not in the Gonzaga/Memphis stratosphere. All told, it's not a bad place to be at all, and Stevens seems like the kind of guy who measures twice and cuts once. He's not going to make a rash decision that he might regret later.

Scuttlebutt says that Stevens would certainly leave for the right opportunity, and that's just sensible. If Indiana or Purdue ever came calling, wouldn't he have to listen? But none of the jobs open today are anywhere near that no-brainer level. Again, we say this guy stays put.

Will both guys be back in the national title hunt next season? It's a tall order. But as long as they're bringing the coaching genius to a sideline near you, college hoops is going to be a fun ride again in 2011-12.

Photos: US Presswire

Posted on: March 25, 2011 1:16 am
Edited on: March 25, 2011 1:32 am

Butler is the new Michigan State

Posted by Jeff Borzello

Over the past decade, Michigan State consistently made deep runs in the NCAA tournament despite entering the Big Dance as a five-seed or lower multiple times.

Under Tom Izzo, the Spartans are never written off, no matter how poorly they are playing heading into the NCAA tournament.

If the past two seasons are any indication, we might have a new Michigan State: Butler.

As a No. 5 seed, it went to the title game. As a No. 8 seed, it’s one step away from a return trip to the Final Four.

With Brad Stevens at the helm, this team is built for March. The Bulldogs defend as well as anyone in country, and they are constantly underrated on the offensive end.

This season, Butler stumbled through the first three months of the season before finishing on a tear and getting into the NCAA tournament as an eight seed. No one doubted the Bulldogs in the Horizon League tournament despite needing to beat Milwaukee – a team Butler had lost to twice already – on the road in the title game.

Once they get into the tournament, the Bulldogs are a battle-tested group that knows how to win when it counts. In the second round, they beat Old Dominion on a lay-up at the buzzer by Matt Howard. Against Pittsburgh in the memorable round of 32 contest, Butler took the lead on a perfectly-designed play by Stevens and then edged out a win after a game-winning free throw by Matt Howard.

On Thursday, the Bulldogs held Wisconsin to 54 points, including just three points in the first nine minutes of the second half. The nation’s second-most efficient offense shot 30.4 percent from the field and 24.1 percent from 3-point range, turning the ball over 11 times. Point guard Jordan Taylor, who came into the game with 38 turnovers in 33 games, gave up the ball four times against Butler’s stingy defense.

Butler's last seven NCAA tournament wins have come by a combined 25 points – the Bulldogs know how to make plays down the stretch. It doesn’t matter that they struggled to beat good teams during the regular season; the Big Dance is a clean slate for everyone.

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.

Photo: US Presswire

More NCAA tournament coverage
Posted on: January 24, 2011 3:13 pm

Butler's down season is puzzling

Posted by Eric Angevine

Let’s get one thing straight: I did not expect Butler to dominate the Horizon League this season. I figured a road loss to Cleveland State was a likelihood, and was intrigued by the addition of Ray McCallum, Jr. to his father’s squad at Detroit. Clearly, there would be no 18-0 run through the conference. Still, I thought, the team has seniors, and some promising freshmen, and things would be OK.

Brad Stevens is puzzledNow, I’m not so sure. A sweep of the Bulldogs by Wisconsin-Milwaukee didn’t figure anywhere in my preseason musings. Right now, the top two teams in the Horizon are Valparaiso, under quiet coaching legend Homer Drew, and Cleveland State. Both teams are 7-2, with Butler and Wright State hanging a full game back at 6-3. That’s what makes this past weekend’s result so baffling: the Panthers aren’t even one of the Horizon’s best teams. They’re 5-5 overall, with two of those wins coming against the league’s rock stars from Indianapolis.

Sure, you can always say that the Bulldogs have a target on their backs, that they get an opponent’s best effort every game due to their NCAA championship game appearance to end last season, but that dawg don’t hunt. Butler has been the league bully for a decade now – they always get an opponent’s best effort. This year, they just don’t have the juice to withstand such efforts.

When I say ‘juice’, I mean defense. Brad Stevens (right) still has the best offensive team in the Horizon by a wide margin. The Bulldogs maintain a 114.3 adjusted offensive efficiency mark, which is nearly ten points better than Cleveland State, the next closest challenger. Looking at’s defensive efficiency numbers, however, Butler posts a 98.7. Defensive numbers are like golf scores – the lower the better. The Bulldogs have the worst number out of the league’s top four teams right now, and they’re inching toward the above-100 club, which features every member of the league’s bottom six, including Milwaukee.

If this trend of defensive futility continues, allowing Valpo and Cleveland State to hold onto the top two spots in the Horizon, Butler will be in a position they’re not at all familiar with – they’ll have to go on the road in the league tournament, which rewards the top two regular-season finishers with double byes and awards home court in the quarters and semis to the No 1 seed. The final is played at the venue of the highest remaining seed. There have been plenty of those games played in historic Hinkle Fieldhouse. This year, the conference’s auto-bid hopefuls may have to go through Cleveland, OH or Valparaiso, IN.

That’s what Butler is now: an auto-bid hopeful, just like everyone else in the Horizon. They don’t have the profile of an at-large team, no matter what they did in the non-conference portion of the schedule, and as of today, winning the Diamond Head Classic by beating Florida State and Washington State doesn’t look like much to brag on.

Beating Butler is great for the teams that have done so. The Bulldogs are a class act, and a worthy target for an ambitious team. Certainly nobody is going to give them a break. But this setback for the Bulldogs is also a setback for the Horizon League if the auto-bid goes to a team that gets blown out in the first round of the Big Dance. Beating Butler is a thrill, but it must inspire greater efforts down the road – reminiscent of recent appearances by Cleveland State (2007) and Milwaukee under Bruce Pearl  -- if it’s to be a harbinger of great things to come in the Horizon League.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or