Butler to the Atlantic-10: What It Means for Bulldogs and New Conference

Ari KramerSenior Analyst IIMay 2, 2012

HOUSTON, TX - APRIL 04:  Head coach Brad Stevens of the Butler Bulldogs claps from the sidelines against the Connecticut Huskies during the National Championship Game of the 2011 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament at Reliant Stadium on April 4, 2011 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Butler's move to the Atlantic-10 became official this afternoon, and despite the trepidation of some, the Bulldogs basketball program should be just fine when it joins the higher-level conference in all sports in 2013.

Yes, Butler is a mid-major, so one common conception is that it should stay at its current level—that it can't consistently compete with better teams. Perhaps ascending to a multiple-bid league is too ambitious for a program that has morphed the Horizon League from a traditional mid-major conference into a perennial two-bid league?

The thing is, Butler produces a formidable basketball team year in and year out.

This past season stands out as an outlier over the last decade or so, but how could it not? Shelvin Mack, Matt Howard and Shawn Vanzant had led the Bulldogs to their second-consecutive runner-up finish in the NCAA tournament, and they all either graduated or left for the NBA following the season, leaving this year's team without a true leader.

As a result, Butler opened as a 4-6 squad. But then the Bulldogs beat Purdue, an NCAA tournament team. Two games later, they edged Stanford, the 2012 NIT champ.

Overall, Butler finished 22-15, so the team—though it still had its bouts with inconsistency—definitely grew as the season progressed.

So don't point to this particular season as a reason to doubt Butler's high potential in the A-10. Next year, the team should be even better because of another key factor in Butler's rise: recruiting.

Brad Stevens, like he does practically every year, is bringing in a solid freshman class, this one highlighted by an ESPNU Top 100 recruit. The trend of luring good basketball players to Hinkle Fieldhouse will only continue now that Stevens can sway high schoolers on consistently playing a higher level of competition, as well as having an even better chance at a tournament bid.

If anything, you can expect more heralded high school prospects to sign with Stevens because of this move.

As for the Atlantic-10, Butler is certainly an adequate replacement for Temple, which will join the Big East in all sports other than football in 2013. 

First of all, according to this article from ESPN.com, Butler and Temple spent nearly an identical sum on basketball in the 2009-10 season. Basketball budget would be one of the primary concerns regarding moving up a level, but Butler should be fine if it maintains such a level of expenses.

Second of all, when was the last time the Owls reached the Final Four? The answer: 1958. The Bulldogs were there just two seasons ago.

One issue that could arise, however, is Butler's geographical location. Instead of taking buses to games, the Bulldogs will generally need to fly.

However, overall, the move makes sense from both sides.