INDIANAPOLIS | If the Butler men's basketball team had the best interests of the Horizon League in mind, the Bulldogs would simply roll over for Wright State in tonight's conference tournament championship game.
The league-leading Bulldogs are already a lock for the NCAA tournament and a win by No. 2 Wright State would give the Horizon League a second team in the field of 65.
Unfortunately for the Raiders, Butler coach Brad Stevens has a team full of competitors who haven't lost a Horizon League game all season and carry the nation's longest winning streak of 19 games into tonight's championship game.
"If you're playing a pickup game with these two teams in the summer, you're still going to do everything you can to help your team to win," Stevens said. "That would be the case if there was a NCAA tournament bid on the line or not."
The No. 12 Bulldogs have unfinished business on their mind as they enter tonight's game. First off, Butler has the opportunity to win 20 games against conference opponents this season and secondly, the Bulldogs have a chance to atone for last season's upset loss to Cleveland State in the Horizon League title game.
"Losing the tournament last year really fueled our focus for this year," Butler sophomore guard Ronald Nored said. "That's kind of been a focus for us. We haven't really talked it out, but it's what we've been doing."
The Raiders are looking to get back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2007, when Wright State knocked off Butler 60-55 in Dayton. Wright State starters Todd Brown and Vaughn Duggins were freshmen that year and are the only members of that team still on the roster.
"My personal goal is to make sure every kid I coach gets a chance to go to the (NCAA) tournament," Wright State coach Brad Brownell said. "It's a daunting task for a mid-major coach and to be 40 minutes away is exciting."
The Bulldogs are making their fifth straight appearance in the Horizon League title game and will be part of the NCAA tournament field for the fourth straight season. Butler advanced to the Sweet 16 in 2007, losing to eventual national champion Florida 65-57.
The Raiders are searching for their third berth in the NCAA tournament field since Wright State went Division I in 1987. In addition to the Horizon League tournament title in 2007, the Raiders made the NCAA tournament when they were members of the Mid-Continent Conference in 1993.
"Any chance you get to play for the NCAA tournament is something that you'll remember," Wright state junior Troy Tabler said. "This will be a big game for everybody and it's an exciting time of the year for us."
HORIZON LEAGUE TOURNAMENT
No. 2 Wright State (20-11) at No. 1 Butler (27-4)
Where: Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indianapolis.
When: 8 p.m. today.
TV: ESPN (cable).
Find out if Times online voters believe that Butler will win the Horizon League tournament title. PAGE B2