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Atlantic 10 leaving mark on national hoop powers

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For more on college basketball, follow Tom Davis via Twitter at Tom101010.

Butler leads 'monster' league

Tuesday, January 29, 2013 - 10:00 pm

INDIANAPOLIS – Duquesne has yet to win a men's basketball game in the Atlantic 10 Conference this season after six tries. But if the Dukes feel badly, then how exactly does West Virginia feel after losing to Duquesne last month?

Mountaineer fans shouldn't shudder with embarrassment, however, for a lot of teams from so-called “high-major” leagues like the Big East ultimately lose to Atlantic 10 teams.

“We have no time to mope during a game or after a game in this league,” Butler coach Brad Stevens said following a recent win over Temple. “It's a monster every night.”

Butler (17-3, 4-1 Atlantic 10) will travel to Saint Louis (14-5, 3-2) on Thursday at 9 p.m. (CBS Sports Network).

First-year member Butler is learning how difficult its new league can be, though the No. 9-ranked Bulldogs' first-place standing lends one to believe that it hasn't been arduous on them.

Despite having gained wins over three top 10 teams (Indiana, North Carolina, and Gonzaga) this season, Stevens' team fell at LaSalle (54-53) last week.

“(Beating Temple) shows resiliency,” Stevens said. “It's like losing (at LaSalle), how are you going to respond? You've got to respond. You've got to play the next one.”

The common basketball fan probably isn't aware that the 14-5 Explorers actually have wins over Villanova, Penn State (by 25), and most recently a nationally-ranked Virginia Commonwealth team.

“Just game after game, that is the level of team that we are playing,” Stevens said. “Even the teams that were picked (pre-season) lower or haven't won as many games, they most all have a signature win in this league, already, on the road.”

The Atlantic 10 has nine teams ranked among the top 75 squads according to their RPI. The Big East (six losses to Atlantic 10 teams) can take solace in the fact that the Atlantic 10 has taken care of business against more nationally-known conferences such as the Big Ten (four losses), Southeastern (five losses), Atlantic Coast (three losses), and the Big 12 (one loss). Power teams such as Gonzaga, Notre Dame, and Syracuse can share in misery with Indiana after falling to Atlantic 10 squads.

Stevens has long been lauded for being out of the ordinary. However, that is usually due to the inordinate amount of success that he has achieved at Butler. But the sixth-year coach took his uniqueness to an extreme point recently when he professed to actually enjoying his inaugural trip through this basketball gauntlet.

“You have to be ready every single night in this league,” Stevens said. “It's fun. Why not? Let's do it.”

Dunham honored yet again

It was another week and another honor for Butler’s Kellen Dunham.

The Bulldog guard was named as the Atlantic 10 Conference Rookie of the Week recently.

The four-time winner of the honor put together back-to-back double-figure scoring performances in Butler’s games against La Salle and Temple last week.

Dunham had 15 points, four rebounds, three assists and a steal in a career-high 37 minutes at La Salle. He then came off the bench with 17 points, four rebounds, one assist and one steal in 28 minutes to help the Bulldogs defeat Temple.

He hit five of six 3-point field goal attempts against Temple and cashed eight of 10 3-pointers on the week. Dunham was the lone Butler player to score in double-figures in both games last week.