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.