A generation ago, a midseason basketball game between Gonzaga and Butler wouldn't have elicited more than a line in newspapers' tiny agate type under “scores.”
This weekend, it's one of the centerpiece games of a brisk Saturday of prime-time hoops and the site of ESPN's first 2013 edition of College Basketball GameDay. ESPN jumped at the chance to feature the program that patented the small-school rise to prominence against the one that perfected it.
It could hardly have worked out better for GameDay, which catches the eighth-ranked Zags at 17-1, the best start in GU history, and No. 13 Butler at 15-2 and riding a 12-game winning streak.
The only disclaimer is a neck sprain to Butler leading scorer Rotnei Clarke, a 44 percent three-point shooter, that will sideline him.
It's the return of a home-and-home series that began with Gonzaga's win in Spokane 13 months ago, and one that, in the tangled realm of scheduling, Zags coach Mark Few appreciates.
Referring to Butler coach Brad Stevens, Few said this week, “We just talked: ‘We should play sometime.' Him being like he is, and me like I am — well, it's done.”
Not far beyond the obvious story line of the two programs' success — Gonzaga's streak of 14 straight NCAA tournaments and Butler's back-to-back title-game appearances in 2010 and 2011 — is the angle of the two coaches who have stayed put to make that happen. Combined, their chances to move to BCS-conference programs would number in double digits.
Stevens told USA Today recently, “You have an administration, athletic director, president, staff, students and coaching staff all with the same goals and ideas of what makes this experience unique and special. We have that here. Don't know that that's everywhere.”