By now, you've probably read some good information about how successful Coach Todd Lickliter was at Butler. You probably know that his team won 29 games this season, that his teams won the conference title (REGULAR SEASON, by the way) 3 times in 6 years and that he led Butler to the Sweet 16 twice in the last 5 seasons.
You may also know that both times that he took his
team to the Big Dance, he not only led them to the Sweet 16, but it took a #1
seed to knock Butler out (Florida in 2007 and
Oklahoma in 2003). And in both of those
post-season losses to top-seeded teams, Butler fought hard and kept
the game quite competitive throughout (despite being physically
These are all very good things.
There is absolutely NO DOUBT in my mind that the Iowa
basketball program is in much, much better hands than it was in for the
last 8 seasons. No doubt at all. The
Hawkeye program has taken a step up, so now fans are asking, "What should we
expect?" and "What kind of style does Coach Lickliter like to
I'm interested in those answers, too.
So, I researched each of the 6 teams that Coach Lickliter had at
Butler and found some definite statistical
While I can't provide a complete analysis without
watching game tapes, there are certain things that I believe the numbers are
saying. Here are some of my
NCAA TOURNAMENT SUCCESS
spelled out my thoughts on this in a previous post, but the "short story" is
that Coach Lickliter's two Butler teams that played in the Big
Dance were VERY impressive. Clearly, they were focused,
disciplined and well-coached. They defeated teams they
weren't supposed to beat. Plus, they were able to win close
games. Very much to like about those two Sweet 16 teams (2003
his 6 seasons, Coach Lickliter's teams had a very impressive league mark of
65-31 (.677), which included THREE regular-season titles.
Butler had a winning record in 4 of those 6 seasons, a .500
record once (8-8 in 2004) and sub-.500 once (7-9 in 2005). No
matter how you slice it, 3 conference championships in 6 seasons is
tremendous. For the sake of comparison, Iowa's
last Big Ten title was in 1979 (when "My Sharona" was one of the top songs in
During his 6
seasons, Coach Lickliter's teams had a .500 record in road games
(40-40). That's not a bad showing for a 6-year
run. Not bad at all. This included 3
fantastic seasons on the road (2002, 2003 and 2007), which accounted for a 28-12
mark … and 3 not-so-fantastic seasons on the road (2004, 2005, 2006), which
accounted for a 12-28 road record.
Overall, though, a .500
record on the road is pretty good. Especially when you
compare it to what the Iowa program has "achieved" on the road the
last few seasons. I was only able to quickly get
Iowa's road record for the last four seasons … and the Hawks were
13-30 on the road (.302) during that stretch. The best season
was 4-7 in 2006. To reiterate: the Iowa program
is now in better hands than it has been in quite a
Here are the
numbers for FG% Defense for Coach Lickliter's Butler
Very, very good in 2007. Good
in 2002. And otherwise, pretty average with the numbers
hovering around 45 to 46%. By comparison, Iowa's
FG% Defense the last four seasons have been better than that (.441, .380, .419
Part of the reason, I'm guessing, is that
Butler has gone with a more perimeter-based attack and therefore,
has used a physically smaller lineup than most of its opponents (but I could be
wrong on that). This would lead me to believe that
Butler's opponents (other than in 2002 and 2007) were able to score
in the paint on a fairly consistent basis. That's not what
you want to see, but depending on the lineup you have on the court, it might be
a necessary evil. Without watching any tape, it's hard to
analyze this much further.
ASSIST-TO-TURNOVER RATIOS (and
OK … are you sitting down? Take
a good look at these numbers because we haven't seen anything like THIS in
Iowa City in a LONNNNNG time. Here are
Butler's average numbers of turnovers per game during the last 6
… do these numbers even seem POSSIBLE? After double-checking
… YES, Butler did have the same shot-clock rules as the college
basketball teams we've been watching. And Coach Lickliter's
teams have averaged anywhere from 62.4 to 70.3 points per game during those
seasons, so they haven't been winning too many games by 42 to 40
But, it is OBVIOUS that these Butler
teams took great care of the basketball. This is
clearly something that is taught and prioritized. As a
result, Coach Lickliter's teams did not beat themselves.
Pretty refreshing, huh?
On the other hand, the last
four Iowa teams have averaged anywhere from 13.5 to 16.3 turnovers
per game. Think that makes much of a difference in close
games? Or against top-notch competition?
Now, take a look at Butler's
assist-to-turnover ratios for those
Again, these are very good numbers.
You always want your team "in the black" in this category, of course, and
once you get up over 1.2, you're really doing a good job of executing your
offense in an efficient manner. It takes discipline,
intelligence, focus and a high skill level to reach these numbers.
Butler was very consistent the last 6 seasons, for
Anything less than 1.1 isn't very good and when you
dip below 1.0, you've got problems. Iowa 's last
four seasons looked like this: 1.1, 1.0, 1.1,
these numbers provided my first "uh-oh" moment of the Todd Lickliter
Era. When you take a look at all of the numbers from his 6
seasons at Butler, it becomes pretty clear that his teams were very
perimeter-oriented and as a result, FG% defense and rebounding suffered a bit …
and probably FT attempts per game did, as well. The tradeoff
was that these Butler teams did a fantastic job of taking care of
the ball and made up a lot of ground on teams from behind the three-point
Regardless, though, of the style of play or physical
size of the team you put on the floor, rebounding is a phase of the game that
CAN be taught and improved throughout a season for a team … and throughout a
career for an individual. It takes effort, positioning,
desire, attitude and timing. The bottom line is that
rebounding – boxing out and attacking the ball – can be
So, I was disappointed to see the Rebounding
Margin (per game) numbers from Butler the last 6
Ouch. Not too
good. Pretty bad, in fact.
comparison's sake, Iowa's Rebounding Margin (per game) for the last
four seasons looks like this: -1.0, +3.4, +1.4,
As I said, I would guess that these Butler
numbers are sort of "a product of the system" that included a physically
smaller lineup and featured a perimeter attack, but this is still a pretty
crucial phase of the game to keep an eye on for the
If you didn't
realize how important three-point shooting is to the college game, you didn't
need to look any further than the title game between Ohio State and
Florida to figure it out. The Buckeyes couldn't
connect from behind the arc (4 for 23) and the Gators kept knocking them down
(10 for 18).
Coach Lickliter has clearly made the
three-point arc a point of emphasis during his time at Butler, from
both an offensive and defensive standpoint. His teams
connected on 3 or 4 more three-pointers per game than their opponents on a very
consistent basis. Plus, Butler's percentages
were very good from behind the arc.
Here are the
three-pointers made per game (and percentages) for Butler and its
opponents during Coach Lickliter's 6
2002: Butler … 8.8
(.384); Opp … 4.8 (.343)
Butler … 8.3 (.392); Opp … 5.0
2004: Butler … 8.2
(.343); Opp … 5.4 (.379)
Butler … 8.4 (.372); Opp … 4.4
2006: Butler … 9.1
(.381); Opp … 4.2 (.314)
Butler … 8.9 (.369); Opp … 5.2
In contrast, Iowa has made more
three-pointers than its opposition over the course of ONE season during the last
four years (and that was by a margin of 1).
This is another category where it helps to have an
interior-based offensive attack because your team will be more likely to get to
the foul line on a consistent basis.
only gave up more free throw attempts per game 2 times in 6 seasons (2004
and 2005), the numbers were awfully close during the other years (+0.9, +1.7,
+0.0, +0.6). So, getting to the free-throw line MORE than the
opposition was not a strength of the Todd Lickliter years at
However, Coach Lickliter's teams were
very good at knocking down their free throws as their annual percentages
For the last 5 seasons, Butler has
shot a higher percentage at the free-throw line than its opposition.
In fact, in 4 of those seasons, Butler shot anywhere from 5
to 8% better at the FT line than its opponents. This is
another phase of the game that can be all the difference in a close
game. And this appears to be another case where Coach
Lickliter's teams have stressed the fundamentals of the
WHAT TO EXPECT
game tapes, it's hard to give a definitive answer about what to expect from
Coach Lickliter's teams in Iowa City. However, I
think that the numbers do give us a pretty good hint about certain things,
** His teams take great care of the basketball
and don't beat themselves with very many wasted
** His teams feature a perimeter-based attack
that makes great usage of the three-point arc, while also doing a solid job of
defending the three-pointer.
** His teams have been
extremely efficient with the ball and typically have very good
** Shooting the ball has been a
definite strength for his teams, whether it is from behind the arc or at the
** Rebounding is a concern.
None of his 6 teams at Butler were very strong in this phase
of the game.
** His teams have played well on the road,
which is probably a result of playing fundamentally-sound basketball and not
making too many mistakes which lead to big runs by
** Coach Lickliter's teams have won 3 conference
titles in 6 seasons, so COMPETING for a Big Ten title sometime in the near
future should be a reasonable goal for the Hawkeyes.
teams have fared extremely well in the NCAA Tournament. They
have had strong showings even when playing top-seeded teams that have distinct
advantages in size and talent. This tells me that we can
expect to see disciplined, focused, highly-skilled teams that are not
intimidated by opponents or situations … and as a result, they fare pretty well
in close games.
Analysis of Lickliter's Six Years at Butler
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