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Preseason Preview: Butler

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(Photo by Ryan Messier/Paint Touches)

The first official practices of the 17-18 college basketball season are in the books and Paint Touches is celebrating by counting down every Marquette opponent from worst to first. Each preview will contain a look at how the opponent did last season, who they lose, who they gain, reasonable expectations for their season, and our own prediction of how their matchup(s) with Marquette will go. This series will start with the most under of underdogs and progress all the way up to most unbeatable of opponents. From here on out we are starting to get to the real meat of the schedule. No more easy wins left. First up is the Bulldogs of Butler.

Team: Butler Bulldogs
16-17 Record: 25-9 (12-6 Big East)
Postseason?: Earned a 4 seed in the Big Dance, cruising past two double digit seeded teams before losing to eventual National Champion North Carolina in the Sweet 16
16-17 KenPom: 25
Date: 1/12/18 & 1/31/18
Location: Hinkle Fieldhouse & BMO Harris Bradley Center
Coach: LaVall Jordan (1st Season)
Projected KenPom Range: 25-50
Projected Conference Finish: 6/10 in the Big East

Departures from 16-17
Avery Woodson: Starting G: 22.4 mpg, 8.9 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 0.7 apg, 0.3 spg, 0.3 bpg, 0.3 tpg, .433 FG%, .421 3P% (Graduated)
Andrew Chrabascz: Starting F: 32.7 mpg, 11.4 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 3.1 apg, 0.7 spg, 0.3 bpg, 1.7 tpg, .454 FG%, .362 3P% (Graduated)
Tyler Lewis: 1st Man off the Bench: 21.9 mpg, 6.6 ppg, 1.4 rpg, 4.0 apg, 0.6 spg, 0.0 bpg, 1.0 tpg, .518 FG%, .393 3P% (Graduated)
Kethan Savage: 2nd Man off the Bench: 20.4 mpg, 8.0 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 1.5 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.2 bpg, 1.1 tpg, .443 FG%, .292 3P% (Graduated)
Steve Bennett: Benchwarmer: 4.1 mpg, 0.7 ppg, 0.4 rpg, 0.4 apg, 0.0 spg, 0.0 bpg, 0.3 tpg, .222 FG%, .167 3P% (only appeared in 7 games) (Graduated)
Trey Pettus: Benchwarmer: 3.4 mpg, 1.3 ppg, 0.3 rpg, 0.4 apg, 0.0 spg, 0.0 bpg, 0.3 tpg, .400 FG%, .000 3P% (only appeared in 7 games) (Graduated)
45% of scoring, 35% of rebounding, 70% of assists, 40% of steals, 26% of blocks, 53% of 3PM

Arrivals:
Paul Joregensen: Transfer PG from George Washington
Aaron Thompson: 3-star PG, ranked #167 by 247Sports
Christian David: 3-star SG, ranked #194 by 247Sports
Joey Brunk: Backup C, returns after missing 27 games due to injury
Cooper Neese: 3-star PG, ranked #232 by 247Sports
Jerald Gillens-Butler: 3-star PG, ranked #242 by 247Sports
Campbell Donovan: Walk on PG

Probable Starters:
PG: Paul Joregensen: 6-2 185 lb RSJR: 15.7 mpg, 4.9 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 2.1 apg, 0.5 spg, 0.1 bpg, 1.1 tpg, .356 FG%, .338 3P% (15-16 stats for George Washington)
SG: Kamar Baldwin: 6-1 170 lb SO: 26.9 mpg, 10.1 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 1.5 apg, 1.7 spg, 0.5 bpg, 1.5 tpg, .495 FG%, .372 3P%
SF: Kelan Martin: 6-7 220 lb SR: 28.7 mpg, 16.0 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.2 apg, 0.7 spg, 0.4 bpg, 1.9 tpg, .428 FG%, .348 3P%
PF: Tyler Wideman: 6-8 240 lb SR: 23.0 mpg, 7.2 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 0.4 apg, 0.6 spg, 0.8 bpg, 1.1 tpg, .615 FG%, .000 3P%
C: Nate Fowler: 6-10 240 lb JR: 11.9 mpg, 5.3 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 0.4 apg, 0.2 spg, 0.1 bpg, 0.6 tpg, .667 FG%, .476 3P%

Probable Bench:
Sean McDermott: 6-6 190 lb RSSO SG
Aaron Thompson: 6-2 190 lb FR PG
Christian David: 6-6 215 lb FR SG
Joey Brunk: 6-11 240 lb SO C
Henry Baddley: 6-4 175 lb SO SF

Probable Benchwarmers:
Jerald Gillens-Butler: 6-4 235 lb FR SG
Campbell Donovan: 5-11 165 lb FR PG

Notes:

• Butler finished the 16-17 regular season as the clear number two in the Big East behind Villanova…though the gap between Villanova and Butler was a lot greater than the gap between Butler and the mess of teams fighting for third. Butler’s offseason was unexpectedly tumultuous but not nearly as bad as it could have been. A bafflingly late “mutual” parting between Ohio State and Thad Matta resulted in both Butler’s Coach and top-rated recruit ending up in Columbus. The result for Butler is that they are now coached by a largely untested head coach and a recruiting class ranked near the bottom of the Big East. They should take a step back this season, but that’s what people thought when Chris Holtmann took over the program.
• Returning to Butler is their bona fide star, Kelan Martin. Many pundits, myself included (if I can be called a pundit) pegged Martin as a sure fire All Big East first team member and a possible contender to the unstoppable Josh Hart for POY. Martin didn’t disappoint by much, he was All Big East 2nd team, but he didn’t quite take the step forward that many expected. His raw scoring went up slightly (15.8 ppg to 16.0 ppg) but at the cost of efficiency, rebounding, defense, and turnovers. Martin became a lot more perimeter orientated as a junior, launching nearly 200 shots from beyond the arc. There was also the odd business where Martin wasn’t starting for awhile and only played 10 minutes against Marquette. Assuming that’s all been worked out, Martin should end up on All Big East First team.
• Despite not being in the top 5 for minutes played, Tyler Lewis was the starting PG for all intents and purposes. When he wasn’t on the floor, forward Andrew Chrabascz was the best distributor for the Bulldogs. With both departing, ball handling is a huge concern for Butler. Their top ranked recruit, Aaron Thompson, is a PG but trusting the keys to a three-star freshman is a bit daunting. The most likely candidate is incoming transfer Paul Jorgensen. Jorgensen sat out last season after playing two seasons for George Washington. The challenge with Jorgensen is that he wasn’t even a starter for mid-major George Washington….and the stats don’t suggest that he was a star waiting for his opportunity. Jorgensen ranked in the bottom quartile of all Division 1 players in both points per possession and points per possession allowed. If Jorgensen hasn’t taken a major step forward in his year off, Butler could be in trouble.
• Playing off the ball will be last year’s surprise freshman, Kamar Baldwin. Being ranked just inside the top 200, not much was expected of the Georgia native. Instead, he snagged an immediate starting spot and was one of the league leaders in creating turnovers. Baldwin’s speed and aggressiveness caught a lot of opponents off guard and he was elite at finishing in transition. In the half court, Baldwin loved to attack out of the pick and roll, scoring with relative ease. Defensively, he was very disruptive but struggled at containing his man on the perimeter. It was often create or turnover or allow a bucket for Baldwin. He finished last season as a unanimous selection for the Big East All Freshman team. Players often make the biggest jump between their freshman and sophomore years, meaning Baldwin could be a force to be reckoned with.
• One of the more intriguing pieces for Butler is big man Nate Fowler. He likely won’t be in the top 5 for minutes played due to splitting time with Wideman and Brunk at the 5, but he may be one of the top 5 players. Fowler was a microwave type player. He could provide you instant offense off the bench. In a measly 12 minutes a game he averaged over 5 points. His points per possession were off the chart at 1.22 which put him in the 99th percentile of all D1 players. It didn’t matter if he was backing a man down, rolling off a pick, or even spotting up for the occasional three (where he shot 47.6%), Fowler knows how to get buckets. Unfortunately, his defense is every bit as bad as his offense….if not worse. When defending the post he gave up a point per every possession. He was even worse when he to defend in space. Despite being 6-10, he only managed 4 blocks all season. Coach Jordan will have to pick his poison depending on his team needs offense or defense. When defending a lead he is much more likely to lean on senior Tyler Wideman, a more traditional enforcer type post.

Prediction:
Last season Marquette and Butler played two tight contests, both resulting in Bulldog victories. Though the first game didn’t feel close as Marquette blew a 16-point halftime lead by giving up 63 points in the 2nd half. Martin, Baldwin, and Savage were the stars in the first game while Woodson and Chrabascz led the way in the second. Butler is a hard team to predict because of the PG situation. If Jorgensen or Thompson come through than Butler could be just as dangerous as they were last season. If they don’t, Butler could be NIT bound. Safe bet is that Marquette splits the series in another pair of tight matchups.

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Categories: Home, Offseason, Previews

Author:Ryan Jackson

Texas A&M Professional, Marquette Fantatic

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