The success of the Butler Bulldogs has some Horizon League fans claiming that the league should've gotten two teams into the NCAA Tournament this season, but when you take a deeper look that really isn't the case.
There was only one team in the Horizon that deserved an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament and that was Butler. No other team had the body of work to justify a bid. Want proof?
Here are the good wins for the league outside of the Bulldogs:
- Iona - Cleveland State
- Oakland - Valparaiso
- Illinois - UIC
Outside of Butler and the UIC win over the Fighting Illini at the United Center, here were the conference's other victories over power conference foes:
- South Florida - Cleveland State
- Air Force - Wright State
- Wyoming - Green Bay
Even with this season's weak bubble and 68 teams, that wasn't enough.
The Horizon League is a conference that will consistently have teams that can win games in the NCAA Tournament. But this season that team was Butler and the postseason has proven it. Valparaiso and Cleveland State both lost at home in postseason games and Milwaukee couldn't handle Northwestern on the road.
Next season that team will probably once again be Butler, but maybe another team will rise as well. Maybe a Horizon League squad besides the Bulldogs will put together a resume that justifies postseason inclusion without the golden ticket.
Even if it doesn't, the league is a good league. One of the best mid-major leagues in the country. It's right on par with conferences like the Colonial Athletic Association, Missouri Valley Conference, WAC and West Coast Conference. This season the CAA got three teams (George Mason, Old Dominion and VCU) into the NCAA Tournament. In 2006 the MVC got four bids into the NCAA Tournament. In 2008 the WCC got three. Blips like that will continue to happen for each of these leagues.
The key is to take advantage of those opportunities. That's exactly what Butler is doing right now and what the conference should focus on moving forward.