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VUSports Big East Preview: Butler

Broc Libra now begins to break down the top half of his predicted Big East League standings ...

With the number of days dwindling until college basketball starts, I’ve predicted the following Big East standings so far:

6: Georgetown

7: Providence

8: St. John's

9: Marquette

10: DePaul  

With the team I predict to finish 5th, I go out west to Indiana with the Butler Bulldogs.

2015 – 2016 season

Butler had a good season last year and though it was a bit of a roller coaster, they ended with a very respectable 22-11 record and their season ended in Raleigh with an 8 point loss to Virginia. While Butler has been in the Big East for 3 seasons, they have yet to win a Big East tournament game. Butler had 4 players who averaged at least 10 points a game, led by their seniors Kellen Dunham and Roosevelt Jones. I think, ideally, Butler wanted to run a bit more as when Tyler Lewis started, they averaged 71 possessions per game, and when they benched Lewis, they averaged just under 68 a game. When they did bench Lewis, they went to Roosevelt Jones as their PG and went with a look of 5 guys between 6 ft 5 and 6 ft 8 and while they slowed their game down a bit, were better both offensively and defensively. They just lacked the top end speed compete for 40 minutes against the best of the best. 

Who left from last year?

Butler had some substantial pieces gone from last year’s team, most notably their 2 senior starters Kellen Dunham and Roosevelt Jones. Dunham came to Butler 4 years ago with the reputation as a shooter and left with an all around great bucket getter. His senior season was one of his better shooting seasons as he shot almost 43% from 3 and 45% from 2, with a top 200 True Shooting percentage in the nation and scored 1,946 points in his career. Jones was a Swiss army knife who averaged 14/7/5 and 1.5 steals a game. A non-traditional PG, he put up career numbers across the board. Butler also lost seniors Jordan Gathers who was a 5th year transfer and put up 4 points a game, Austin Etherington, a transfer from Indiana who averaged 4 points & 2 rebounds per game, and Jackson Davis, a 6 ft 8 big man transferred to Eastern Kentucky.

Who is new?

Butler has a handful of new players this year including 1 transfer, 1 5th year transfer, a redshirt freshman and 3 true freshman. The transfer is Kethan Savage, who put up over 12 points a game as a junior at GW and will likely battle for the starting 2 spot with their 5th year transfer Avery Woodson, who comes from Memphis. Woodson can handle the ball and takes a lot of 3’s. The redshirt freshman is Sean McDermott, a 6 ft 6 wing who went to the same high school as Kellen Dunham. Their 3 freshman are Kamar Baldwin, an undersized scoring machine who plays pestering defense, Henry Baddley, a 6 ft 4 wing player who played at St. Vincent St. Mary’s in Akron, and the top player, Joey Brunk, a 4 star center from Indiana, who should have a solid year, but will likely be a very good player for Butler throughout his career. Butler also has Paul Jorgensen who will have to sit a year after transferring from GW.

Who’s returning?

Butler’s returning players include their starting front court and a PG who started half the year and that list starts with Kelan Martin and Andrew Chrabascz. Martin, a second team all Big East selection, averaged almost 16 points and 7 rebounds a game, and shot 38% from 3. Andrew Charbascz averaged 11 points and 4 rebounds a game and a great feel for the game. The final returning starter in their front court is Tyler Wideman, a 6 ft 8 brick wall who can also guard on the perimeter. He averaged 8 points and 6 rebounds a game by getting offensive rebounds and dunks as his offensive game isn’t very polished.  The final returning player who started some games last year is Tyler Lewis, a senior PG who averaged 6 points and 3 assists a game and was benched halfway through Butler’s season. The only other returning player who got some game action last year is sophomore big man Nate Fowler, who will likely serve as solid up-front depth. 

Big OOC games

Butler has a relatively strong schedule this year. They play in the Las Vegas classic against Vanderbilt and then either Arizona/Santa Clara, play home against Northwestern in the Gavitt Games, home against Cincinnati and away against Utah and Indiana St. Butler will also play Indiana in the Crossroads Classic. Other games include Vermont, Central Arkansas, Norfolk St, Northern Colorado and Bucknell. 

Final predictions

Starting 5:

PG – Tyler Lewis (SR – 5 ft 11)

SG – Avery Woodson (SR – 6 ft 2)

SF – Kelan Martin (JR – 6 ft 7)

PF – Andrew Chrabascz (SR - 6 ft 7)

C – Tyler Wideman (JR - 6 ft 8)

Remaining rotation (in anticipated order)

SG – Kethan Savage (SR – 6 ft 3)

C – Joey Brunk (FR – 6 ft 11)

SG– Kamar Baldwin (FR – 6 ft 0)

SF – Henry Baddley (FR - 6 ft 4)

C – Nate Fowler (SO – 6 ft 10)

SG – Sean McDermott (FR – 6 ft 6)

Final Thoughts:

Initially, I had thought that Butler was going to have somewhat of a re-building year, but they have a lot of talent and a lot of upperclassmen. While PG is still an issue, I think Tyler Lewis will play like the senior that he is and while he’ll have suspect defense, the front line will make up for it. Their schedule has some challenges, but isn’t as difficult as other Big East teams and that’ll allow the team to gel with all of the new players. I think that Coach Holtmann will have lots of lineups this year and will do a lot of mixing and matching as after his top 6, he has a lot of unknowns, though Brunk might become a starter by mid-season, especially if he can gobble up defensive rebounds. If the ball handling can be consistent and Tyler Lewis can play up to his McDonald’s All-American form, Butler could even do better than 5th in the conference. That being said, this is likely a tournament team, especially if Kelan Martin lives up to his preseason billing as a first team selection. 

OOC – 9-3

Big East – 10-8

Combined – 19-11

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