So how big a worry is Butler’s success for Indiana? Will it hurt Hoosier recruiting? Will you suddenly see Washington’s Cody Zeller and other in-state kids prefer Butler over IU?
Butler proved with its national runner-up finish that it can thrive on the national scene as well or better than anybody. That it did so with unheralded recruiting classes -- at least compared to, say, Duke -- is testimony to Brad Stevens’ coaching ability, the toughness of its players and the importance getting kids who fit the Butler Way.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said making the title game will change the Butler program, in a good way. The Bulldogs, in fact, with four returning starters, assuming Gordon Hayward doesn't bolt for NBA riches, will certainly be a preseason top-5 team next season. Krzyzewsksi suggested they might even be No. 1.
But don’t expect the Bulldogs to go toe to toe with North Carolina, Kentucky, Kansas and company in the recruiting wars. It’s not their style. It’s not what got them to this level, and it sure as heck won’t keep it there.
Basically, doing what it’s been doing – recruiting guys that get the “Butler Way” mentality, who put team over individual, who care about academics and who thrive in small-school, mid-major surroundings.
Oh, yes. Targeting in-state players.
Yes, the Bulldogs' NCAA tourney run will draw some in-state kids, but that was already happening. Junior forward Matt Howard, for instance, passed on Purdue, among others, to go to Butler.
But it likely will happen more now. Take Zeller, who has offers from Butler, Indiana and Purdue, among others. His choice could provide an indication of how much the Bulldogs’ March Madness run has had on the in-state recruiting world, Indiana and Purdue in particular.
But don’t take our word for it. Consider Dave Telep, the national recruiting director for Scout.com.
“I think it will always be Butler recruiting,” Telep said. “Just because they have a bigger profile doesn’t mean that they’ll skimp on their core values and recruit a bunch of different kids. You may see them going after a couple guys who are a little bit higher level, but for most part I can see Brad Stevens being true to his model.
“I believe the Butler Way is what has gotten them to this point. You might find that over the course of a few years they’ll do what Gonzaga has done -- stick their nose in with some higher-profile guys, but I don’t think Brad Stevens will trade talent for the proper fit for his program -- ever.”
In other words, Butler’s success will make IU coach Tom Crean sweat a little more on the top-level in-state kids, but it won’t keep him from his goal: restoring the program to championship caliber. He might have to work a little harder, but then, hard work has always been a key component to Crean's success.
And to Butler's.