Mike Bargen isn’t trying to rain on anybody’s parade, but any hype that comes with his team — the Butler Community College men’s basketball team is 15-0 and ranked No. 4 in the country — needs to be tempered.
Even if the Grizzlies are traveling to No. 6 Hutchinson (14-1) on Wednesday night in a marquee showdown at the beginning of the second half of the season.
“The thing I stress to them is to keep improving,” said Bargen, in his seventh season. “The thing is, this group still hasn’t been around (Butler coaches) for very long, so they’re still tuned into trying to understand exactly what we want out of them and exactly what we want them to do.”
Butler is off to its best start since the 1996-1997 season — when Hutchinson coach Steve Eck was Butler’s coach. That was also the last season that Butler and Hutchinson both met while ranked in the top 10.
The Grizzlies have gotten to this point with an early helping of walkover opponents, with wins over the Tabor junior varsity, Friends junior varsity, Kansas State-Salina, and a dismantling of Jayhawk East opponents.
Butler went 9-0 against Labette, Allen, Neosho, Cowley and Independence, playing the first four teams twice. The Grizzlies opened their return to Jayhawk West play with an 82-74 win over Garden City on Saturday after spending last season in the Jayhawk East.
Despite playing on opposite sides of the Jayhawk, Butler and Hutchinson still managed to play three times last season — twice in November and then again in the Region VI Tournament quarterfinals. Hutchinson went 2-1 in the games.
The Blue Dragons are led by 6-7 sophomore Deshawn Freeman, who is fifth in the Jayhawk in scoring (21.5) and rebounding (9.1).
Hutchinson’s lone loss came against Labette, 87-77, on Nov. 1 in the second game of the season.
Butler’s success has come with a balanced attack — 6-7 sophomore forward and Youngstown State transfer Kyle Steward is tied for the team lead in scoring with freshman Jacolby Harris at 12.5 points — and 6-8 sophomore forward Lamar Wofford lead the Grizzlies with 6.9 rebounds.
“It’s a new half of the season and it’s not going to be as easy as some of the games in the first half,” Bargen said. “There were tough games, but not every single night.”
Second-ranked Hutchinson (15-0) hosts Butler (11-3) in the women’s game at 5:30 p.m.
No. 4 Butler at
No. 6 Hutchinson
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Sports Arena, Hutchinson
Records: Butler 15-0, Hutch 14-1
Radio: KNSS, 1330-AM