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Butler served Longhorns on Thanksgiving

Butler head coach Chris Holtmann won't have to look far for previous meetings with most of the PK80 field. (Photo Credit: IconSMI)


Thanksgiving seemingly isn't much of a holiday anymore for Butler basketball.

They've played on that day in locales like Orlando, the Bahamas, and in Las Vegas a year ago.

This November, they'll add Portland to that list.

It's been known for months that Butler would be participating in the Phil Knight Invitational, a 16-team event reserved for only schools that don the Nike swoosh on their athletic apparel. Games will take place in two different arenas, the current and former homes of the Portland Trail Blazers on the Thursday, Friday, and then Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend.

The Bulldogs now know their first round opponent, and whom the other teams they'll need to scout will be as of this afternoon's announcement.

The Texas Longhorns will be Butler's opponent on Thanksgiving afternoon. With a win, the Bulldogs would likely face Duke in the semifinals of what's being called the 'Motion Bracket.'

Even though this is a 16-team event, the tournament will be played out in two separate eight-team brackets. There's also a 'Victory Bracket,' and by doing it this way, there can be two schools from a league play in the tournament, but they must be in separate brackets.

For example, Georgetown will be the other Big East representative in the field.

Back to the batting order for the Bulldogs, there's certainly several easy connections to make in terms of opponents in their half of the draw. With Shaka Smart now in charge of the Longhorns, it's a rematch of sorts from both the 2011 Final Four, and Butler's one year together with VCU in the A10.

A win in that game (and barring a massive upset by Portland State in Duke's opening round game) and of course you'd have a rematch of the 2010 National Championship game here in Indianapolis.

It doesn't stop there, either. In the other half of the bracket, there's the Thad Matta-led Ohio State Buckeyes, Gonzaga (a shot from Roosevelt Jones ring a bell?), Stanford (where Barry Collier used to work and a school that Butler has played in the recent past), and Florida (with multiple tournament meetings against Butler).

Here's yet another sign of how far Butler has come as a program. I can point to every program in their bracket (other than the hometown Vikings...that's Portland State, kids) and immediately think of a tie to Butler. And most of those come from the postseason.

Butler being invited as part of this field (over other Nike schools from the Big East) is one thing. The fact that Butler has competed with most of these schools in the recent past is another sign of what this program has become.

There's no kids' table in this event. And the Bulldogs have been running with the grown-ups in this sport for the better part of 15 years, anyway.

Get your popcorn ready. Or in this case, your turkey, gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes...

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