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Villanova to face a Butler team that has a new coach

As a member of the Big East, Butler first-year coach LaVall Jordan has found out the program has changed since he starred for the Bulldogs as a player.

Butler coach LaVall Jordan (right). watching a game against Purdue earlier this month.
Butler coach LaVall Jordan (right). watching a game against Purdue earlier this month.Read moreDarron Cummings / AP

INDIANAPOLIS — Some things about Butler University basketball will probably never change.

The Bulldogs' home arena, Hinkle Fieldhouse, was built in 1928 and is one of the meccas of college basketball. It's a  national historic landmark.

Still, change is inevitable, and the Butler program that LaVall Jordan starred for as a player from 1998 to 2001 and worked for as an assistant coach from 2003 to 2007 is in a different place as he goes through his first season as the Bulldogs' head coach.

For starters, Butler is no longer the mid-major Cinderella program that teams didn't want to see on their line early in the NCAA tournament.

In 2013, Butler's consistent success since just before the turn of the century earned it an invitation into the newly realigned Big East Conference.

Joining a conference that still included some of the most recognized programs of college basketball has done more for the Butler brand than even playing in consecutive NCAA championship games while representing the Horizon League.

"Coming back to Butler was exciting for me and my family and embracing where Butler is now versus when I was a player," said Jordan, who was a two-time all-Midwestern Collegiate Conference (now Horizon League) player. "We're in an entirely new conference, and going against the highest level of competition.  Every game is different."

As a Butler player, Jordan never went against Georgetown and Villanova – both former NCAA champions – in consecutive games to open a conference schedule.

The Bulldogs (11-3, 1-0 Big East) rallied from 20 points down to win at Georgetown, 91-89, in double overtime Wednesday. Sophomore Kamar Baldwin scored a career-high 31 points and Kelan Martin (27 points) hit a game-winning three-pointer in the closing seconds.

Their reward is a meeting with No.1-ranked Villanova (13-0, 1-0) on Saturday at Hinkle.

The Wildcats, who stayed in the Midwest after winning at DePaul on Wednesday, actually had a shorter trip to Indianapolis than Butler, which came home from Washington.

"Fortunately, we've got players who have played against these other teams, so they already know what it is like to go against a Georgetown and a Villanova," Jordan said.

Obviously, it's a different campaign, but the Bulldogs handed Villanova two of its four losses last season.

"It's different for me than being in the old MCC, where you might see a team like this every once in a while at a neutral site in a tournament setting," said Jordan, who played in three NCAA tournaments and an NIT during his career.

Butler and the Big East are a golden opportunity for Jordan, who had just one year of experience as a head coach when he returned to his alma mater from Wisconsin-Milwaukee to replace Chris Holtmann, who left for Ohio State.

"It's exciting," said Jordan, 38. "It's giving us a jump from a recruiting standpoint. You can do everything you want to do from Butler in terms of competing at the highest level every night.

"All your dreams of playing in a great conference, competing for a national championship, and having a chance at the pros after college, that's what the Big East puts you on a stage to do."

Villanova at Butler

Saturday, 4 p.m., at Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indianapolis


Radio: 610 WTEL-AM


Coaches: Jay Wright, 18th year at Villanova (399-161); LaVall Jordan, 1st season at Butler (11-3).

Series: Villanova leads, 7-2.

Last meeting: Kelan Martin scored 22 points and had eight rebounds as the Bulldogs won, 74-66, at the Pavilion. Jalen Brunson scored 24 for the Wildcats.

The latest: The Wildcats (13-0, 1-0) won at DePaul, 103-85, in their Big East opener Wednesday. Led by Mikal Bridges, who had 20 points, 'Nova had seven players scoring in double figures and topped 100 points for the third time this season and first since Nov. 17. The 'Cats have played one home game since Nov. 30. As for Butler, the Bulldogs (11-3, 1-0) overcame a 20-point deficit to win in double overtime Wednesday at Georgetown.  In an analytics dream statistic, Butler is one of just 10 teams that have won at least two games when the "win probability" during the game dropped below 5 percent.  After losing the first seven games against Villanova, Butler last season became just the second program (Creighton in 2013-14 was the first) to sweep the Wildcats since the Big East realigned in 2013-14.