Welcome to the sixth edition of Bracket Briefing, our attempt to ensure that readers won't have to wait until March to know who C.J. McCollum is.
Butler's 88-86 overtime win over then-No. 1 Indiana last week was without a doubt the most stunning upset of the season to date. But when a program has been to more Final Fours in the past three years than tradition-rich Indiana has in the last decade, when are we going to start expecting an upset from Brad Stevens-coached teams?
With their huge win, the Bulldogs broke into the USA TODAY Sports Coaches Top 25 poll, making them the only ranked Atlantic 10 team. However as we saw Saturday, looks can be deceiving. That's certainly the case with the A-10 this season.
Butler, in its first year in the A-10 after switching from the Horizon League, is a favorite to win the conference. But the reality is the Bulldogs could finish fifth, sixth or seventh in the league. That's how unpredictable a loaded conference is with at least five potential NCAA tournament bids.
Butler was picked to finish sixth in the league at A-10 Media Day, with St. Joseph's (5-3), Saint Louis (6-3), VCU (8-3), Temple (8-1) and Massachusetts (5-3) picked ahead of the Bulldogs by preseason voters.
All six teams earned at least two first-place votes. That's excluding upstart teams Dayton (8-2) and Xavier (7-2) and surprise teams Charlotte (10-1) and Richmond (9-3). Additionally, it wouldn't be surprising to see at least 10 teams from the A-10 with an RPI better than 100.
"I would argue more teams deserved first place votes," said St. Joseph's coach Phil Martelli, who thinks the A-10 is the toughest conference in the country. "Other people aren't focused on the right things. Butler and VCU have been to the Final Four, and they're challenging every school and every member of our athletic departments with scheduling, exposure, everything. That's a good thing, this strengthens our league, makes us better.
"The way I see it, the A-10 was a nice looking meal before Butler and VCU arrived. Now, we just added the desert. ... Butler didn't come to the Atlantic 10 to finish fifth, and we don't expect to finish fifth either."
St. Joseph's was picked to finish first in the Atlantic 10 and has started the season 5-3.(Photo: Howard Smith, USA TODAY Sports)
As the non-conference portion of the season winds down and league play sits on the horizon, one of the biggest 2013 story lines will be which team comes out on top in the A-10. No, it doesn't necessarily rival the Big Ten with overall talent, but the A-10 could be the toughest conference to win.
For all the talk of a power basketball conference being formed with the seven Big East-departing Catholic schools as the foundation - and with A-10 schools Butler, Xavier, Dayton and Saint Louis all candidates to join the new league - let's not forget that the Atlantic 10 is very much so a power conference this season.
Butler guard Alex Barlow, center, is carried by forward Kameron Woods, left, and center Andrew Smith after Butler defeated No. 1 Indiana 88-86 in overtime on Saturday.(Photo: Michael Conroy, AP)
Where Butler would be seeded in the NCAAs if the season ended today: No. 4
Butler's two wins against top-10 teams Indiana and North Carolina will serve as eye candy for the NCAA committee, and the Illinois loss isn't a huge stain now that we know the Illini are a top program. Butler is flirting with a No. 3 seed, but will need a strong A-10 finish to improve its seeding.
Top-10 team that Butler would give fits: Arizona
Butler might have picked up the biggest win Saturday, but Arizona wasn't far behind with its victory over Florida. Arizona's one of the hottest teams in college hoops. The Wildcats could beat Butler at its own run-and-gun game and showed the ability to finish a game late, also one of Butler's strengths.
Top-10 team that Butler would struggle against: No. 10 Illinois
We saw the Bulldogs struggle against the Illini in the Maui Invitational, falling 78-61, but that was mostly because of Illinois' hot shooting. If they played again, the objective would be containing Brandon Paul. Butler played well against Indiana mostly because there was a guard forcefully taking over the game. Surprisingly, the Bulldogs' interior defense has been better than its perimeter defense, as Illinois showed earlier in the season.
USA TODAY Sports