Preseason Preview: Butler

Wojo Ref

(Photo by Ryan Messier/Paint Touches)

The first official practices of the 18-19 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. We will be releasing one a day ending the day before Marquette’s exhibition with Carroll. That’s right, when this series ends, Marquette basketball will finally be here.

Team: Butler Bulldogs
17-18 Record: 21-14 (9-9 Big East)
Postseason?: 10 seed in the NCAAs, upset Arkansas before taking 2 seed Purdue down to the wire
17-18 KenPom: 20
Date: January 30, 2019 & February 20, 2019
Location: Hinkle Fieldhouse (Indianapolis, IN) & Fiserv Forum
Coach: LaVall Jordan (2nd Season)
Projected KenPom Range: 20-50
Projected Conference Finish: 4/10 in the Big East

Departures from 17-18
Kelan Martin: Starting PF: 35.7 mpg, 21.2 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 2.0 apg, 0.7 spg, 0.5 bpg, 2.4 tpg, .447 FG%, .364 3P%
Tyler Wideman: Starting C: 20.5 mpg, 9.3 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 0.5 apg, 0.5 spg, 0.4 bpg, 1.3 tpg, .672 FG%, .000 3P%
Cooper Neese: Benchwarmer: Appeared in 0 games (Transferred to Indiana State)
38% of scoring, 33% of rebounding, 18% of assists, 19% of steals, 30% of blocks, 33% of 3PM

Jordan Tucker: Midseason Transfer SF from Duke
Bryce Golden: 3-star PF, ranked #224 by 247 Composite
Markeese Hastings: 3-star SF, ranked #477 by 247 Composite

Probable Starters:
PG: Aaron Thompson: 6’2” 185 lb SO: 24.1 mpg, 4.3 ppg, 1.4 rpg, 3.4 apg, 1.1 spg, 0.4 bpg, 1.7 tpg, .396 FG%, .133 3P%
SG: Kamar Baldwin: 6’1” 195 lb JR: 34.0 mpg, 15.7 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 3.2 apg, 1.5 spg, 0.4 bpg, 2.1 tpg, .442 FG%, .331 3P%
SF: Paul Jorgenson: 6’2” 185 lb RSSR: 27.5 mpg, 10.2 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.5 apg, 1.1 spg, 0.1 bpg, 0.9 tpg, .417 FG%, .349 3P%
PF: Sean McDermott: 6’6” 195 lb RSJR: 23.8 mpg, 7.5 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 1.0 apg, 0.7 spg, 0.2 bpg, 0.9 tpg, .512 FG%, .431 3P%
C: Nate Fowler: 6’10” 240 lb SR: 17.4 mpg, 5.9 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 0.6 apg, 0.5 spg, 0.5 bpg, 0.7 tpg, .607 FG%, .333 3P%

Probable Bench:
Jordan Tucker: 6’7” 210 lb SO SF
Henry Baddley: 6’4” 180 lb JR SF
Bryce Golden: 6’9” 250 lb FR PF
Joey Brunk: 6’11” 230 lb RSSO C
Christian David: 6’6” 200 lb SO SG

Probable Benchwarmers:
Markese Hastings: 6’7” 190 lb FR SF
Jerald Gillens-Butler: 6’4” 230 lb SO SG
Campbell Donovan: 5’11” 170 lb SO PG
Bryce Nze: 6’7” 225 lb JR SF (Redshriting due to NCAA transfer rules)

• It happened again last season. Butler was expected to take a step back and possibly miss the tournament, but instead they finished third in the Big East in KenPom rating and were one game outside of a third place finish. From that team, the Bulldogs are losing their starting center and one of the best players in the Big East in Kelan Martin. Those two departures and a recruiting class only featuring lower level recruits has many pundits again predicting a down season for the Bulldogs. Jon Rothstein went so far as to pick them to finish 9th in the conference. Don’t fall into that trap. This Butler squad is returning almost everyone from a top 25 team and is adding a blue-blooded midseason transfer. They will take a step back, but not nearly as much as other teams, Butler should be near the top of the Big East once again.
• The biggest question in Indianapolis is how does Coach Jordan replace Kelan Martin? Simple answer is that he can’t, at least not completely. Martin was the second leading scorer in the Big East, the team leader in rebounds, blocks, and three pointers, and was the heart and soul of Butler basketball last season. He simply did too much to be replaced by one player. Butler fans are hoping that newcomer Jordan Tucker can fill in some of that role. Tucker was a top 100 player coming out of high school and had enough potential to land a scholarship from Duke. He however didn’t quite have the talent to earn playing time at Duke. Tucker only appeared in garbage time of two blowout victories before announcing his transfer midseason. Tucker’s measurables are markedly similar to Martin’s and if he lives up to his top 100 ranking, he could be an immediate starter once he becomes eligible. Given that he will need to be worked into the rotation midseason, he might start his career in a sixth man role.
• The rest of Martin’s scoring will likely be made up by increased roles for a pair of diminutive guards. The first is rising junior Kamar Baldwin. After earning a spot on the All-Freshman team his first year, Baldwin raised his game to become a legitimate second scoring threat behind Martin. Baldwin does most of his work off the bounce, attacking defenses with a great handle and a deadly first step. While his scoring went up his efficiency did drop sharply as a sophomore. 49.4% eFG isn’t terrible but not what you would hope for in a lead scorer. Besides his scoring, Baldwin is a fantastic rebounder for his size, a capable distributor, and a hell hound of a defender. His 1.5 steals per game is third amongst returning Big East players. If Baldwin can maintain his averages from last season but increase his efficiency than his ceiling could be as high as All Big East First Team.
• The second player likely to see a scoring bump is Paul Jorgensen. No Big East transfer was a more pleasant surprise than Jorgensen last season. He went from being an inefficient backup PG for mid-major George Washington, to a legitimate starter on a top 25 team. Jorgensen played mostly off the ball for the Bulldogs and that may have been the key to his success. His three-point shooting was not lights out but was dangerous enough to give Martin and Baldwin a lot more room to work. With Martin gone, Jorgensen will be featured a lot more in the offense and will need to face tougher defenders. He has already shown that he can deliver against elite competition, his career high in points was a 23-point outing in Butler’s win over eventual national champion Villanova.
• Martin isn’t the only significant piece departing the Bulldogs. Center Tyler Wideman was a three-year starter in Indianapolis and led the Big East in FG% in his last season. Filling his shoes will be another ultra-efficient big man. Nate Fowler has been Wideman’s backup for the past three years and has been offensively dominate in limited minutes. His eFG% would have been top 10 in the Big East if he had enough attempts to qualify. He’s difficult to stop in the post and even has the ability to face the hoop and shoot. He’s a career 42% 3P shooter in limited attempts. He doesn’t bring the rebounding and rim protection that Wideman did but there should be no drop off on the offensive end.
• Butler’s starting five is rounded out by a pair of defensive specialists. Aaron Thompson is Butler’s version of Derrick Wilson. He is a strong perimeter defender and a decent distributor but has almost no shot to speak of. He was only a freshman last season, so he may develop his shooting touch. If he doesn’t, it might not be long before opponents figure out the sag off the non-shooting PG defense that Marquette experience in Wojo’s first year. The other is wing Sean McDermott. The rising junior is a three and d specialist with an ideal switchable frame for guarding multiple positions. He’s not a volume scorer but he is by far the most accurate shooter on the roster.

• On paper, Marquette should have the better team next season. The two teams had identical Big East records last season and Marquette is trending up while Butler is trending up. Despite that, I have Butler taking both matchups this season. Butler has absolutely owned Wojo, winning seven of the eight matchups in the past four seasons, including the last five. Until that changes, I just can’t expect a victory against the Bulldogs. Marquette goes 0-2 despite being favored significantly at home.

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Categories: Analysis, Home, Offseason, Previews

Author:Ryan Jackson

Texas A&M Professional, Marquette Fantatic


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