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After Indiana and Butler became an instant classic on Saturday, I asked myself why don't we do this every year? As it turns out there are plenty.
In truth, I think I would love to see IU play Butler annually as a college basketball fan. As ESPN's Eamonn Brennan pointed out today, it would be pretty awesome and have the makings of an instant rivalry. Unfortunately for Indiana it would be a one sided rivalry until some things are changed that are both in and out of Butler's control. It would be awesome for an IU-Butler annual rivalry to arise but it just wouldn't be smart for Indiana as things currently stand.
The Hoosiers are considered a big time program. A real competitor in the Big Ten and the biggest stage of college basketball. Butler, despite being the best Indiana college basketball program of the last decade, is still considered to be the little engine that could. They're still an underdog on the national stage. Butler fans still view themselves as an underdog as well. Even when they were openly trolled by myself on a national television where you're supposed to talk smack you didn't hear a peep out of them because likely they believed me to be at least a little bit right (I wasn't). In a show where I am supposed to talk crap they didn't talk crap back until the results proved me wrong. On the flip side, I caught crap from North Carolina fans pretty quickly after the ESPNU appearance against their blogger. They aren't underdogs, they're the top of the pile.
So when Butler fans aren't willing to crow about the accomplishments of their program and think of themselves as a team to be reckoned with, why should anyone else? Butler is still viewed by the national conscience as a mid-major program. They aren't. Despite two straight National Title appearances they are still viewed as a annual cinderella. It does no good for Indiana to take on an opponent every year where they get no credit if they win and all the blame if they lose. Butler has this stigma about them that doesn't even put them on the same level as Xavier and Memphis (who are technically mid-major programs) in the college basketball collective thought. It isn't fair to them but it is even less fair for high major programs that take them on annually.
There is zero shame in losing to Butler. But to take the risk of doing it semi-regularly offers no perceptive advantage to a IU or North Carolina. Even after Saturday's game vaulted Butler into the AP top 20 people still view this game as David dropping Goliath. Indiana shouldn't put themselves in that situation every year. On any given night, Butler is good enough to beat IU on its own court. Can you imagine the pandemonium that would have caused across the blogosphere and college basketball analysts?
Now the question becomes how can Butler remedy this issue? Well they already made a valiant attempt which could have caused a 180 in perception by joining the much tougher A-10 over the puny Horizon League. Unfortunately now for them, that conference that includes the non-mid-major mid major Xavier appears to be on the verge of being poached of its best teams. Temple is leaving, chances are Xavier, St Louis, St Joseph's and/or Dayton may not be too far behind. Butler needs to make another moving while the getting is good.
If Butler were to make a move and join the new Catholic 7 of the Big Ten in an all basketball conference then I would immediately approve (like I have any say) of an IU-Butler annual series on the spot. Why? Because joining that conference would immediately give them the legitimacy that they still lack in the nation's minds. Really this isn't Butler's fault. All they can do is win and they've done that but along with Gonzaga any loss to them by a big program is still treated as a major upset. It shouldn't be. Butler making that big move could change the perception over night.
Until this happens or Butler spends their time in the tougher A-10 making the greater reputation that they deserve it makes no sense for the Hoosiers to ever set foot in Hinkle Fieldhouse or even play them annually at a neutral site in Indy. There is just too much to lose for Indiana. Just look around on this Monday and you'll see it everywhere. Terry Hutchens suddenly writes that Cody Zeller is overrated. Tom Crean rushes to Twitter to defend his players and the message boards are questioning whether Tom Crean is even a good coach. It's a ridiculous overreaction to a not so terrible loss. And IU would be setting itself up for it to repeat next year if it agreed to play Butler again.