No. 8 Gonzaga, No. 13 Butler ready to square off
Both have consistently brought in players who fit their systems rather than Top 100 recruits, and they manage to keep those guys around campus long enough to develop their talent. And they did this while scheduling the big boys of college basketball.
Other non-BCS conference programs took the cue and wound up with similar results.
A glance at this week’s Top 25 shows Creighton at No. 12, San Diego State at No. 15, New Mexico at No. 19 and Virginia Commonwealth at No. 22. Another Missouri Valley Conference school, Wichita State, was ranked last week.
George Mason, VCU and Butler have all made Final Four appearances in the past decade. Ohio University of the Mid-American Conference came within a whisker of upsetting North Carolina and going to the regional final last season.
With all these non-traditional teams in the Top 25 now, it could happen again.
And the mantra, from Indianapolis to Spokane, Wash., to Omaha, Neb., sounds the same.
“We’ll play anyone anywhere as long as they’ll come back to Omaha,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “Gonzaga isn’t playing anyone anywhere without a return trip unless it’s on a neutral floor somewhere. That’s something we’d be open to do as well. We have got 17,000-plus coming to our games. We’ve got to play some home games. We owe that to our fans. We’ll continue. “
McDermott acknowledges he’s reached out to Butler and Gonzaga but has not yet been able to get either on the schedule.
“We scheduled this before we were in the Atlantic 10 and when I looked at the schedule in September, I thought, `I’m an idiot,’” Stevens said. “I should have scaled it back.”
He didn’t, and college basketball fans might get to see one of the best games all season.
AP Sports Writer Eric Olson in Omaha, Neb., contributed to this report.