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Butler locks up future early-season tournaments

When it comes to early-season Thanksgiving tournaments, it’s really not about the destination for Butler coach Brad Stevens. It’s not like he gets to enjoy the weather.

“I think I had my swimsuit on for about 30 minutes,” he said about the recent trip to Maui.

He can get used to it. His Bulldogs are now scheduled out for the next three years in three of the higher-end Thanksgiving tourneys – all in locations with plenty of sunshine. It was previously reported that Butler had secured a spot in the 2013 Old Spice Classic at the Disney complex in Orlando, and now, it’s pegged to be in the field at the 2014 Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas and the 2015 Puerto Rico Tip-Off.

“It’s a product of what we’ve been through,” Stevens said, referring to the difficulty of getting in these events and how the program’s success opens up these doors. “What you learn is, it’s hard to get in because teams like Butler are signed up three years in advance. They’ve got to sign up Duke five years in advance, North Carolina five years in advance – we’re not on that par with how much they want us in these tournaments, but we might be on the next tier and you can get in some of that stuff.”

A couple abnormal conflicts of interest accompany the spot in next year’s Old Spice Classic. Fellow A-10 member St. Joe’s is also in the field, for which there needed to be a waiver signed, while another previously-scheduled opponent in Purdue is also in the group of eight squads in the bracket. Butler and the Boilermakers are already playing in 2013 Crossroads Classic. It’s assumed the tournament directors will do their best to keep these teams on opposite sides of the bracket.

No detail about the waiver was provided, but Stevens did say his family was awfully happy about it.

“I know this – my family wanted that waiver really bad because the Shrewsberrys are going to be there,” he said with a smile, referring to his former assistant and family friend, Micah Shrewsberry, who is now on Matt Painter’s staff at Purdue. “I’m pretty sure my kids would have gone with Purdue. I’m not kidding, they were going to Orlando whether Butler was going or not. That’s a fact.”

The other five teams in Orlando next year to round out the eight-team field are LSU, Memphis, Oklahoma State, Siena and Washington State. These upper echelon tournaments have to choose teams based on name recognition, consistency and projected relevance nationally – and then hope they hit the jackpot in any given year with an exceptionally strong field.

The lone other team that is a known confirmation for the 2014 Battle 4 Atlantis is North Carolina. This year’s tournament – the second annual – was an absolutely loaded field with four top-20 teams going into it (Louisville, Duke, Missouri, Memphis), to go along with four more solid programs on top of that (VCU, Stanford, Minnesota, Northern Iowa). Next year’s field includes Kansas, Michigan State and Xavier.

The Puerto Rico Tip-Off has been conducted since 2007 and the likes of North Carolina, Memphis, Indiana, Villanova, Xavier, Purdue and many more have participated since its inception. Oklahoma State beat then-No. 6 North Carolina State in this year’s title game.

Stevens said he prefers the Thanksgiving tournaments as compared to the Christmas time events in order to avoid the difficulty of coming home and having to jump right into the conference season.

“All of those tournaments are so well-run now so it’s just nice to be a part of it,” he said. “Maui was neat to be a part of, that’s for sure.”

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