In the wake of recent reports signaling a transition out of the Horizon League and into the Atlantic 10 for Cinderella head coach, Brad Stevens, and his two time NCAA runner up Butler Bulldogs, teams all across the Horizon League have been paying close attention.
Taking into consideration the level of recognition Butler has brought to the conference the Loyola Ramblers call home, members of the Horizon League should feel a bit concerned and worried. Losing your prime time player is never easy, but is the transition inevitable?
As much as I love the Horizon League, it is safe to say Butler doesn't belong. Heck, no other team in this league is capable of chartering a flight like the Bulldogs, let alone a typical mid major team. Clearly, the success Stevens has had in the tournament escalated the popularity...and alumni donations to a point where Butler has become the "big man on campus" college basketball program.
NBC Sports, Mike Miller really captures the move nicely.
The bigger bonus? The A-10 isn’t a one-bid league.
If Butler wins the Horizon, but stumbles in the conference tournament, it might have a long wait on Selection Sunday without a happy ending. The A-10 usually reduces those odds.
The bright side of this for Rambler Nation? Loyola's ability to actually win the conference tournament just skyrocketed. Now don't jump on me just yet. Not saying, Porter Moser and the Ramblers will be dancing this time next year or the year after that, but as the Loyola program progresses rapidly at the rate it is starting to, Moser will have an easier path to trudge upon in the Horizon League.
The Horizon League is a perfect fit for Loyola and will be for a quite some time. The opportunity to play a cross city rival, UIC, twice a year and with the exception of Youngstown State, not have to traverse all over the map. While the Ramblers will stay put, nestled among mid major colleagues in the Horizon League, will their name recognition falter as a result of Butler's exit?
You better believe it.
Year in and year out, the one game that draws significant attention to the campus and Gentile Arena is the coveted Butler match up. Losing a highly covered yearly game never bodes well for the athletic department or fan base. However, this should be an indicator that Loyola needs to continue to reel in city games like they did this season against Big East member DePaul. The camaraderie leading up to the game and the feel during made for an awesome Chicago college basketball experience.
Winning those type of games will not only begin to throw the Rambler name out on the map, it will begin the renaissance the school is looking for. With Butler out count Loyola in to be the team to claim king in the Horizon League.