25 Most Intriguing Teams for 2010-2011: #9 Butler Bulldogs

A traditional pre-season top 25? They’re fairly ubiquitous this time of year. Everyone has one, but from Duke to Mississippi Valley State and in between, there’s a lot of intriguing teams for the upcoming college basketball season.

In ascending order of squads that pique our interest, our list consists of teams with a rare chance to make noise, have a lot to prove, quirky schedules, or are just named Kentucky.

Follow along. Story lines aren’t just for the nation’s elite.

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"Oohhhhhhh...and it ALMOST went in! Almost went in!"

Jim Nantz's line to close out the 2009-2010 college basketball season will never be forgotten by Butler fans. Two inches to the left, and Gordon Hayward's half-court heave would have unquestionably and unanimously been the greatest highlight/play/event/thing in college basketball history, maybe in all of American sports. It would have been an ending more spectacular and emotional than frieken Hoosiers, a tear-jerker that gets me every time.

Instead, Hayward's missed shot still ranks up there as one of the most memorable plays in my book, but instead of being the most improbable national champion since the '85 Villanova Wildcats, the Bulldogs fell short of something tangible and instead had to settle for earning the respect of the entire country.

So just what the hell does Butler do for an encore? For starters, they can boast about three returning starters and securing Brad Stevens for the next decade. One of the most composed head coaches in the country, Stevens inking a 12-year extension in April immediately puts Butler in the same class as Gonzaga. With Mark Few refusing to leave for a BCS school, it has allowed talented high school players to consider that Bulldog team as an upper-echelon, and not mid-level, program because they are led by a coach that's pot committed. With Stevens new deal, Butler is just that.

But let's face reality, the Bulldogs aren't going to the 2011 Final Four, they may not even play during the second weekend of the tournament., but they will be one of the more balanced and experienced teams in the country, and should float around the top 25 all season.

Even better, we still have one more season of the venerable and dashingly handsome Matt Howard.

What happened this summer?
Brad Stevens went on The Late Show With David Letterman, looked a bit overwhelmed despite being naturally composed. A few weeks after making the national TV rounds, Stevens signed a 12-year contract extension to stay with Butler. Gordon Hayward was selected 9th by the Utah Jazz in June's NBA Draft. The school announced a National Championship re-match with Duke, to be played on December 4th at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, NJ.

 

Games that really matter

  • 11/16 @ Louisville
  • 11/23 @ Siena
  • 12/4 vs. Duke (@ Izod Center)
  • 12/9 @ Xavier (remember last season?)
  • 12/18 vs. Stanford
  • 2/5 @ Cleveland State

Most intriguing player
Shelvin Mack (6'3" guard; junior ) - The Bulldogs' and Horizon League's best perimeter player, Mack does not possess exceptional explosiveness, but can still score off the bounce and shot 39 percent from beyond the arc last season. Accompanied by Ronald Nored, Mack will run the point this season but also be looked upon to score. With Nored the most decorated defender on this team, Mack will be able to focus on leading this team in scoring and sharing, as he looks to up his stock and forgo his senior season for the NBA.

What is at stake?
Given their unexpected success, what sort of grace period do fans give the Bulldogs? What happens if they happen to fall flat on their faces this season and return to just being a cute mid-major the next? We don't expect that to happen, but it will be interesting to see. Additionally, we all know the Bulldogs will not be top-of-mind in January and February, but if they struggle early (especially on their four nationally televised games in the span of 32 days) how quickly will the Bulldogs respect dissipate on a national level if they can't accumulate victories? Something to be aware of.

Predicted Finish

- Conference: 1st

- NCAA Tournament: Second round

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