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Collier is the architect of this program’s renaissance.

He took over as head coach of a beleaguered program in 1989. In 1997, he had the Bulldogs back in the tourney for the first time since 1962, and by 2000, they came within a whisker of upsetting Florida in the first round of the NCAA tourney.

Since then, the names and faces of coaches and star players have changed, but the growth of Butler basketball has remained remarkably steady for one reason: Everyone here believes in the system, the style and the ability to do things nobody else thinks possible.

“The belief has never changed,” said Stevens, who is in his sixth season as coach and his 11th season on Butler’s staff. “You have to re-instill that when things don’t go your way, and when that happened to us in the mid-2000s, Brandon Crone and Brian Ligon helped re-establish that.”

Even those who helped lay the foundation for this decade of success are amazed at what they’re seeing now.

Just ask Darnell Archey, the NCAA record-holder for most consecutive free throws (85) and one of the catalysts on the first Butler team to reach the regional round since 1962. He’s back now as the team’s coordinator of basketball operations.

“Looking back at past teams from the 2000s, we had some great victories but nothing like this and the way they’ve been doing it,” he said. “It’s pretty amazing to see what these guys have done.”

Already this season, Butler (16-3, 3-1 Atlantic 10) has beaten teams from the ACC (North Carolina), the Big East (Marquette), the Big Ten (Indiana and Northwestern) and the SEC (Vanderbilt). The Bulldogs won 13 in a row, including three games without Rotnei Clarke, their top scorer, before losing.

They have debunked the myth that they needed better athletes to compete in the Atlantic 10 by beating preseason favorite St. Joseph’s on the road and traditional contenders Dayton and Richmond, and they’re doing it their way. The Bulldogs have been so good for so long, that there’s now speculation they could join the seven Catholic schools that have decided to break away from the Big East to form a new league. Butler officials have declined to talk about it.

But why is Butler so successful in close games and big games?

“We play a style where not that many points are on the board, so we know we’re never really out of a game,” 7-foot center Andrew Smith said. “We’re comfortable being up one and needing a stop to win a game.”

Or clearing room among Hinkle’s steel girders to hang one more banner in this classic gym.

“The thing I’m surprised about is that we always believed my teams could get to the Sweet 16 and maybe beyond,” Archey said. “But then you see it happen and it really makes you take a step back and realize what you’ve been a part of.”