On Dec. 31, Butler looked like it might be one of the best teams in the Big East, or at least a threat to Villanova’s apparently untouchable spot at No. 1 in the league standings. At the time, the Bulldogs were 11-1, rated as one of the 20 best teams in the country according to the KenPom rankings and held wins against Purdue and Cincinnati.
But just as you were ready to annoint Chris Holtmann’s team as a dark horse title pick, Butler started one of the toughest stretches you’ll see on the Big East schedule and have ended up bruised on the other end of the gantlet.
Butler is 2-5 as we approach the midseason portion of the conference schedule after falling 72-64 on the road at Creighton on Saturday. Jerry Palm has had the Bulldogs as a lock for the NCAA Tournament in his Bracketology reports since the start of the season, but their projected seeding has fallen as the losses continue to pile up. Saturday’s game against Creighton, one the Big East’s more surprising teams this season, was a chance to get right back into the mix after two losses to Providence, a loss to Villanova and a loss to Xavier.
After losing to the other Big East title hopefuls, Butler looked less like a potential title contender. After losing to Creighton, it’s fair to wonder if these are two teams meeting on escalators heading in different directions. The Bluejays aren’t great, but they’re 5-2 in Big East play with victories over Butler, Seton Hall and Georgetown.
The middle of the league is going to be a dog fight down the stretch for NCAA Tournament bids and it’s Creighton, not Butler, that has made the most of the early conference schedule. Creighton’s draw has not been nearly as difficult as Butler’s, but Greg McDermott’s group has played well and now has a case as a potential tournament team.