The Butler Bulldogs basketball program starts the season with more than just a changing roster. A new coach and a new conference will present plenty of challenges and opportunities for the Bulldogs throughout the season.
Following a 27-9 season, beloved head coach Brad Stevens left to coach the Boston Celtics. The Bulldogs continued their tradition of promoting from within and promoted Brandon Miller to head coach. It might take some time to determine the impact of Stevens’ departure, but it will always be difficult to replicate the success of a coach who took his team to the National Championship game two years in a row.
The Bulldogs will also transition into the Big East this season, its third conference in three seasons. They finished 11-5 in the Atlantic 10 last season, but the Big East will present new challenges. While this isn’t the same conference it used to be, the conference will still likely be more challenging than the Atlantic 10.
Those won’t be the only hurdles for Butler to overcome. Junior Roosevelt Jones was expected to a steadying hand as he was the only player to start every game last season, but then tore ligaments in his left wrist that will sideline him for the season. Jones led the team in scoring and rebounds last season.
The Bulldogs will also have to adjust to life without guard Rotnei Clarke and center Andrew Smith. The two accounted for over 38-percent of the teams offense, a number that will be hard to reproduce. Smith played big against some of the better centers in the country, while Clarke was a go-to scoring option when the Bulldogs needed it most.
Sophomore Kellen Dunham will likely take over as the team’s leading scorer. He is a sharpshooter who is only going to get better from long range. Alex Barlow made a big jump last season and he’s going to need a bigger one this year if the Bulldogs are going to be successful.
Senior forward Khyle Marshall has been very consistent the past two season, averaging nine points per game, but will need to improve his rebounding. Junior forward Kameron Woods has also been extremely consistent and you have to imagine that his numbers will go up once he assumes a starting spot.
Freshman Rene Castro will likely be the only first year player in the starting five. He’s a playmaking point guard who has a tendency to take over on offense rather than defer to his teammates. Yes, he can create his own shot but he doesn’t exactly make his teammates better. Going to Butler could be the best thing for his future as Miller adheres to the same principals that Stevens did: teamwork and effort. If he can play team ball, then Butler will do fairly well this season.
Freshman Nolan Berry will also likely push for minutes this season. Right now, he’s an undersized power forward but he is very technically sound and a very good athlete.
On paper, the Bulldogs schedule doesn’t look all that tough, but its deceptive. Right now, only Marquette is ranked (17th) but four other teams in the Big East received votes for the Top 25. The new conference is a grind, more so than any other the Bulldogs have competed in and it won’t be easy.
With all the transitions that the Bulldogs are making, it’s likely they’ll have a rough season. Butler is probably going to finish in the middle of the conference and have its fair share of ups and downs.
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