#28 Butler Men's Basketball Preview

Butler Bulldogs

Overall Rank: #28
Conference Rank: #1 Horizon
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2010-11: 28-10, 13-5
2010-11 postseason: NCAA
Coach: Brad Stevens (117-25 at Butler, 117-25 overall)

Butler has been down this seemingly rebuilding year before. Last year they lost Gordon Hayward and many thought Butler would struggle to reach the NCAA Tournament again. And that was partially true. The Bulldogs did not dominate the Horizon League, but of course they did end up playing for the national championship. There is a little more rebuilding to do this year, but Butler is a system team and they have plenty of players who are ready to step up and play a bigger role and become the latest household names from Butler basketball. The hero this year may not be Ronald Nored, but he will be the leader. He has been starting for the better part of three seasons and has spearheaded the Bulldogs tenacious defense. He may not put up big numbers again this year, but he will help turn all the new faces into a team.

Who’s Out:
Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack were the only two players who averaged over nine points per game last year. Together they averaged 32.4 points per contest and were the leaders of the team that went to the NCAA title game. Howard was also a beast on the glass and a matchup nightmare due to his ability to shoot from long range. Mack led the team in assists and three-pointers made. Shawn Vanzant was a part-time starter and did a little bit of everything from the wing. Zach Hahn is also gone and he too spent nearly half the season in the starting lineup. Mostly a shooter, Hahn provided a nice spark off the bench and averaged 4.9 points per game. That is a lot of production to replace.

Who’s In:
Coach Brad Stevens will need a couple of the newcomers to play significant minutes in 2011-2012. Butler rarely asks such things from freshmen, but this is a class that can answer the call. Jackson Aldridge, a 6-1 point guard, is the likely candidate in the backcourt. Alex Barlow and Elliot Kampen are also a couple new guards, but it is Aldridge who is ready to contribute. He spent his summer at the U-19 World Championships and really developed into a fine player. That experience should make him ready to at least be the backup to Nored. On the wing, Roosevelt Jones and Andy Smeathers are both capable of starting. Jones is a defensive specialist, but also a great pickup for the Bulldogs. He can do a little bit of everything although it will be his defensive abilities that earn him playing time. Smeathers is a bigger 6-6 wing who can do a lot of damage from long range. Up front Kameron Woods may turn into the best player in this class. For now, he needs to add some weight to his 6-8 frame, but he can be a force on the glass right away.

Who to Watch:
The frontcourt really just needs some depth from Woods and they may not need him at all. Andrew Smith and Khyle Marshall should form a superb starting duo. Smith proved to be a very capable interior scorer during his sophomore season and the 6-11 center should only get better. Coming off a season in which he averaged 8.5 points and 5.6 rebounds, Smith could get pretty close to averaging a double-double. That would certainly make life easier for the scorers on the perimeter if Smith is consistently scoring on the inside. The one thing stopping Smith from a huge year is Marshall who should take away some of Smith’s opportunities. Marshall only averaged about 15 minutes per game as a freshman, but they were productive minutes and he spent his offseason at the U-19 World Championships where he played very well. The expectations for him are very high to fill at the four spot and he has the talent to live up to any expectations. Garrett Butcher is a productive big man when healthy and Erik Fromm and Emerson Kampen are capable of seeing a vast increase in playing time to backup Smith and Marshall.

Final Projection:
Even with all the talented newcomers, it is very possible that Butler will not start any of them right away. That is not the Butler way for one, but they have enough returning talent to fill in the holes without them, at least in the starting five. Chase Stigall started over a dozen games last year and could be on the verge of a breakout season. The 6-3 junior is mostly a shooter and his shot was not falling enough last year, but he is also a good defender with knowledge of the system. If he starts supplementing his shooting with the occasional drive to the basket, Stigall could boost his scoring output from 3.9 points per game to something close to double digits. Chrishawn Hopkins may not get the starting nod over a freshman, but he will be asked to play more. As a freshman, the 6-1 guard barely saw the floor, but he had some good moments and carries plenty of potential. Players like Hopkins are better than most people think and they are ready to find their new role for the new season and help Butler get back to the NCAA Tournament.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA

Projected Starting Five:
Ronald Nored, Senior, Guard, 5.0 points per game
Chase Stigall, Junior, Guard, 3.9 points per game
Roosevelt Jones, Freshman, Forward, DNP last season
Khyle Marshall, Sophomore, Forward, 5.8 points per game
Andrew Smith, Junior, Center, 8.5 points per game

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