Feb 2, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Rhode Island Rams guard Mike Powell (1) steals the ball away from Butler Bulldogs guard Kellen Dunham (24) at Hinkle Fieldhouse. Butler defeats Rhode Island 75-68. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Big East Preview: Butler Bulldogs


Record last season:  27-9 (Conf: 11-5)

Postseason:  Round of 32 in NCAA Tournament

Coach:  Brandon Miller

Coach’s record at school:  0-0

Offensive efficiency:  108.3 (49th in the country)

Defensive efficiency:  94.2 (44th in the country)

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Returnees:  Khyle Marshall (9.6 PPG, 4.5 RPG), Kellen Dunham (9.5 PPG, 2.8 RPG), Kameron Woods (4.5 PPG, 4.9 RPG), Erik Fromm (3.4 PPG, 2.5 RPG), Alex Barlow (2.3 PPG, 2.7 RPG), Andrew Smeathers (1.0 PPG), Jackson Aldridge, Devontae Morgan

Notable losses:  Rotnei Clarke (16.9 PPG, 2.8 RPG), Andrew Smith (11.3 PPG, 6.1 RPG), Chase Stigall (1.9 PPG, 1.3 RPG), and head coach Brad Stevens

Newcomers:  Nolan Berry, Rene Castro, Andrew Chrabascz and Elijah Brown

Projected lineup:

G:  Rene Castro

G:  Alex Barlow

G:  Kellen Dunham

F:  Kameron Woods

F:  Khyle Marshall

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Outlook:

Butler has been surprising the college basketball world for years now, but this year would be especially surprising if they make any sort of run in the NCAA tournament, let alone even make the field.

Calling the upcoming season for the Bulldogs a ‘transition year’ is a vast understatement.  A transition year usually entails some rather significant roster turnover and/or the replacement of an inadequate coach.  What Butler is going through is much more than that.  They are making the jump to the Big East from the A-10 (and the Horizon League the year before that), their two best players from a year ago graduated (Clarke and Smith), their best player entering this season is already done for the year with an injury (Roosevelt Jones, 10.1 PPG and 5.6 RPG), and oh, their superstar head coach bolted in the middle of the summer to become the head coach of the Boston Celtics (Stevens).  And their new head coach will be making his head coaching debut on November 9th against Lamar (Miller).

I don’t know what you call all that, but ‘transition year’ doesn’t seem to be the correct description.

However, I wouldn’t go as far as calling this a situation or program in turmoil either.

Butler has a long history of success which has been accomplished via the ‘Butler Way’.  Hard work, discipline and a team focused mentality have proven successful on a reoccurring basis. Big time recruits and playing some profound style of basketball has not been needed. Smart, efficient play with each and every member of the team and staff buying in is what got this team to back-to-back national championships.  And even though none of that should change, it’s still really difficult to imagine this team having similar success this year.

Stevens was one of the most respected and desired coaches in the country.  He didn’t snag elite recruits, but he acquired recruits that fit his system.  His coaching style and ability to get the most out of every lineup and player and his gift of exploiting the opposition was unlike any other coach in the country.  Now Butler must move on without him.

Brandon Miller, a 34-year old Butler alum hired to be an assistant to Stevens in April, will take over the head coaching duties.  He has big shoes to fill and will naturally be compared to Stevens until he establishes himself.  Dunham and Marshall need to step up into leadership roles and become the foundation of the offense.  But for the offense to display the same efficiency of year’s past, it will need a reliable point guard.  That may have to be Castro, a freshman.  And while the defense has been sound for years, it will be interesting to see how it holds up against better competition on a more regular basis.

The Butler program has been on a tear with their postseason runs and conference movements.  But they will now be embarking on this new opportunity without the coach who was the mastermind behind their success.  A step back seems in order, especially in a seemingly tougher league, but when a program is filled with confidence like that of Butler, you never know what can happen.  Will the ‘nobody believes in us’ mantra work?  Maybe here and there, but not for the longevity of an entire season.

Projected Big East finish:  9th


Tags: Basketball Big East Brad Stevens Brandon Miller Butler Bulldogs Featured Kellen Dunham Khyle Marshall Popular