Butler Bulldogs

NCAA Division: Division I

Conference: Big East

Past Conferences: Atlantic-10, Horizon, Midwestern Collegiate, Midwestern City, Mid-American, Missouri Valley, Independent

City: Indianapolis, IN

Stadium: Hinkle Fieldhouse

NCAA Tournaments: 1962, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018

Championships: 

National Championships: None

Conference Titles: 7

Team History

Gordon Hayward hauled in the rebound with mere seconds remaining, dribbled around one Duke defender, found space near mid-court and heaved the shot that would go down as the greatest in college basketball history.

If only it had gone in. 

Hayward’s shot clanged off the backboard and then off the rim as the buzzer sounded on Butler’s 61-59 loss in the 2010 national title game. Had it been a half-inch lower on the backboard or a tiny bit softer off his fingertips or if the humidity in Lucas Oil Stadium had been a tad different, perhaps he’d have had the greatest game-winner of all time, and the Bulldogs would have been national champs.

Alas, the Blue Devils were the champions, and Butler was left to wonder what if. Still, that didn’t take anything away from a remarkable year that put a basketball-mad school into the national spotlight.

The Bulldogs started playing hoops in the latter part of the 20th century and boasted several standout teams, many under Tony Hinkle. They currently play in hallowed Hinkle Fieldhouse, named for that man, the winningest coach in program history.

Two NIT Berths With Hinkle

Hinkle had just 10 losing seasons in his 41 years at the helm, leading the team to two NIT berths and an NCAA Tournament appearance in 1962, when the Bulldogs won a then-team record 22 games and reached a regional semifinal.

It wasn’t until the 1990s, long after Hinkle departed, that the program became a regular in postseason play. There were multiple NIT entries in the early part of that decade and the team returned to the NCAA Tournament in 1997 under Barry Collier. 

They’d return the following year, 1998, and again in 2000 in Collier’s last year. That team won the Midwestern Collegiate Conference going away, rolled through the conference tourney and -as a No. 12 seed- took Florida to overtime in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Mike Miller’s buzzer-beater lifted the Gators to a dramatic victory en route to an eventual national runner-up finish, and it ended a great run for Collier’s stifling defensive unit. Butler Bulldogs team stats displayed the third-ranked scoring defense (55.7 points per game allowed) in the country.

The next season, under one-and-done head coach Thad Matta, saw the team score its first NCAA Tournament win since 1962, before it lost to another national runner-up in Arizona in the second round. 

Matta gave way to Todd Lickliter, who had win totals of 29, 27, and 26 in his six-year run at the helm. His 2006-07 team had wins over Notre Dame, Indiana and Tennessee in a 10-0 start, and was ranking in the top 20 from Thanksgiving on before securing a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Victories over Old Dominion and Maryland set up the Bulldogs for another matchup with Florida, this time in the Sweet 16. Again, the Gators ended their season, but the NCAAB odds for Butler were looking up every year.

Lickliter moved on to Iowa, opening the door for the most transformative figure in program history to take over. Brad Stevens, an Indiana native who starred at nearby DePauw, was an assistant under Lickliter. When the latter left, players urged Collier -now the athletic director- to hire from within, and Stevens, at just 30 years of age, won the contest.

A Magical Year

Stevens would put together a phenomenal 166-49 record in six seasons with the Bulldogs, going 30-4 in his first season and 33-5 in that magical year that ended with Hayward’s miss at the buzzer. The 2010-11 team also made it to the national title game, falling to Connecticut in much less dramatic fashion.

Stevens’ final season, 2012-13, was also the first for the program in the Atlantic-10, a marriage that lasted just one year. After a second-round loss to Marquette in the NCAA Tournament, the Bulldogs became part of the restructured Big East and Stevens left to coach the Boston Celtics, for whom he is now president of basketball operations.

His absence was felt immediately, as the team suffered its worst season in 21 years in 2013-14. It rebounded well, however, with NCAA Tournament berths in all three seasons under Chris Holtmann, and again in 2017-18 under former Bulldog standout LaVall Jordan, who missed two free throws with 8.1 seconds left before the buzzer-beater against Florida in 2000.

Jordan went just 83-74 in five seasons with his alma mater. The Bulldogs haven’t been in the NCAA Tournament since that 2018 bid, and the 2021-22 team went 14-19, prompting his dismissal.

Matta, who coached three seasons at Xavier and 13 at Ohio State after his first stint with Butler, was hired to replace Jordan. Betting odds on the Bulldogs to return to the Big Dance are not great, but Matta and the program both have plenty of pedigree.

All-Time Records

Points Scored

Chad Tucker: 2,321

Kelan Martin: 2,047

Darrin Fitzgerald: 2,019

 

Rebounds

Daryl Mason: 961

Kameron Woods: 956

Jeff Blue: 953

 

Assists

Aaron Thompson: 566

Thomas Jackson: 540

Ronald Nored: 497

 

Wins

Tony Hinkle: 558

Barry Collier: 196

Brad Stevens: 166

FAQs

What Is the Highest Win Total in Program History?

The greatest team in Butler’s history was the 2009-10 crew, which won a program-record 33 games before falling two points short in the national championship.

What Was the Worst Season in Program History?

The 1980-81 team went 5-22 and 1-10 in the Midwestern City Conference. The one league victory is still the lowest win total in conference play for the Bulldogs.

Who Is the Greatest Player in Program History?

Gordon Hayward is the most notable Bulldog and the best player to play for the program. Nonetheless, Matt Howard deserves some recognition for overall program contributions.

Howard started underneath for four straight NCAA Tournament teams, including two national runners-up as a junior and senior. He was a three-time Horizon League first-team selection and a second-team pick as a freshman. The 6-8 Indiana native ranks sixth in program history in points, fifth in rebounds, fifth in field-goal percentage, third in blocks, and first in both made free throws and free throws attempted.

 
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