With a bevy of upperclassmen and talented transfers, this year’s Butler men’s basketball team is loaded.
It’s the deepest roster to grace Hinkle Fieldhouse in, well… ever.
While this should be incredibly exciting for the Bulldog faithful, it’s more than likely to cost coach Chris Holtmann some sleep at night.
Shelling out playing time can be a tough task for any coach, considering one bad personnel choice down the stretch is enough to lose a game. But when you have a team full of capable players, and only so many minutes to go around, it becomes infinitely more challenging.
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Holtmann, who’s made it clear the starting lineup is far from being set, undoubtedly has some difficult decisions to make.
Here’s a position-by-position breakdown of the players Holtmann will choose from:
It looks as though 5-foot-11-inch NC State transfer Tyler Lewis will play the role of floor general this season.
Lewis is a gifted passer, has a deadly crossover and a surprisingly quick first step, which he uses to get the rim and draw a foul or to dump the ball to the nearest big man for an easy score.
Bulldog fans take note – he’s the real deal.
If the hopes of this year’s team rested on the shoulders of one player, they would be his.
Lewis is a relentless worker who plays each game as though he’s fighting for the respect of everyone in attendance. So it’s fitting, really, that he would end up in a Butler program that consistently finds itself undervalued, no matter how many NCAA tournament finals appearances it makes.
Don’t be shocked if Lewis takes home a few Big East player of the week honors and is a candidate for conference player of the year.
Jordan Gathers, a 6-foot-3-inch graduate transfer from St. Bonaventure, will likely back up Lewis at the point, and could occasionally be called upon to take a larger role if Lewis or Dunham get into foul trouble early on.
While at St. Bonaventure, he spent the majority of his time on the court as a 2-guard, so it’s conceivable he could play alongside Lewis if needed.
Gathers played three seasons with the Bonnies, and sat out the 2014-2015 season due to hip surgery. Gathers graduated from St. Bonaventure and chose to spend his final year of eligibility as a Bulldog.
As a junior, Gathers averaged 4.4 points per game, 3.8 assists, and 1.3 rebounds in nearly 20 minutes per contest. He shot 34 percent from the field and 74 percent from the charity stripe.Mar 21, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Butler Bulldogs guard Alex Barlow (3) reacts from the bench in the final minute of overtime against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the third round of the 2015 NCAA Tournamentat Consol Energy Center. The Fighting Irish won 67-64 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
In the final chapter of his collegiate career, the pride of Pendleton, Ind., 6-foot-6-inch Kellen Dunham, will look to build on his First Team All-Big East performance last season.
Not much can be said about Dunham that hasn’t already been said, so I’ll spare you the Bobby Plump/Jimmy Chitwood references and leave it at this:
For Butler to make a deep run in March, Dunham needs to show out each game.
Granted, he is without a doubt the first name on the scouting report of every opposing team – probably even bolded, underlined, and followed by several exclamation points. So if he happens to blow up for 30 points, you can bet it wasn’t because his opponents were unprepared.
Dunham’s production was limited early on last year due to the extra attention he received from defenses. But with a new, offensively-focused point guard, teams will need to focus more attention elsewhere, giving Dunham a bit more freedom to do what he does best – score the damn ball.
Last week, Dunham was named one of the nation’s top 20 wing players by Sports Illustrated’s Chris Johnson.
Sean McDermott, a 6-foot-6-inch freshman, might see some time at the position as well.
McDermott is viewed by many as Kellen Dunham 2.0, and has the potential to take over as the starting 2-guard after Dunham graduates. It’s also possible he’ll be used at the small forward spot as well. For a more in-depth look at McDermott, read Ink on Indy’s preview of the Bulldog freshmen.
Roosevelt Jones is back for his last season in Butler blue. The 6-foot-4-inch redshirt senior is a fan favorite known for giving his team a spark with aggressive defensive and hustle plays.
He was selected as Second Team All-Big East last season, led the Bulldogs in assists and finished second on the team in both scoring and rebounding. Jones is a Swiss Army Knife-type player – willing and able to do anything and everything to help the team.
Whenever the going gets tough, Jones steps up in a big way. He’s the glue that holds this team together. Expect him to have yet another great year.
Sophomore Kelan Martin is most likely to sub in for Jones, and should be the first player off the bench. He played in all 34 games as a freshman, and provides an offensive boost every time he takes the floor.
Martin is a great shooter, especially when spotting up, and has a knack for getting himself open. He could be a difference maker for the Dawgs come tournament time.
Indiana University transfer Austin Etherington will also see time as a small forward. Last year, he averaged 12 minutes per game, shot 26 percent from three-point range, and hit 93 percent of his free throws for the Bulldogs. Look for him to see an increase in playing time in his final season.
In true Butler fashion, only one player on the roster is a bona fide center, which underscores the well-known fact the team is undersized.
Compare the frontcourt of the Bulldogs with, say, Big East rival Georgetown, and the difference is striking.
Including 7-foot senior center Bradley Hayes, the Hoyas have six players listed at 6-foot-8-inches or taller.
Butler has three, and they are all underclassmen.
In the past, the Bulldogs have had mixed results with a small lineup. A lack of size could become either an advantage, or a hindrance, and it all depends on how Holtmann decides to use his players and handle various match-ups.
Andrew Chrabascz, a 6-foot-7-inch junior, might be the most underrated player in the Big East.
The Rhode Island native is the heart and soul of this team, and when he isn’t on the floor, it’s noticeable.
There’s not a lose ball he won’t dive for, a shot he won’t contest, or a rebound he won’t go after. Chrabascz is the poster child for the slogan “hard work pays off.”Mar 19, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Butler Bulldogs forward Andrew Chrabascz (45) dribbles the ball around Texas Longhorns guard Demarcus Holland (2) during the second half in the second round of the 2015 NCAA Tournament at Consol Energy Center. The Bulldogs won 56-48. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
He averaged nearly four rebounds, 11 points, and 2 assists per game last season. With the loss of Kameron Woods to graduation, Chrabascz will need to emerge as a rebounding machine on both ends of the floor for the Bulldogs to have any chance of surviving conference play.
Next up is 6-foot-8-inch sophomore Tyler Wideman, who could get the nod to start alongside Chrabascz in the post.
Wideman plays scrappy and uses his length to his advantage. He played in all 34 games as a freshman, started in five, and averaged 11 minutes.
His stat line is unimpressive, but with an increase in playing time and responsibility, the potential is there for Wideman to have a breakout season.
Jackson Davis, Wideman’s fellow 6-foot-8-inch sophomore, should see more minutes this year as well.
He’s great in fast break situations and an above-average rebounder, but Holtmann has said Davis needs to “continue to learn [the Butler] system.” While his role will be expanded, there is still a question about how much he will be asked to contribute.
Last, but not least, is the tallest player on the roster, 6-foot-10-inch freshman Nate Fowler.
Fowler could be used to give some much-needed relief to the likes of Chrabascz and Wideman. He also gives Holtmann the luxury of choosing to play small ball or put in a big body to clog the paint.
Fowler’s minutes will likely vary from night to night and depend on the match-ups presented by opposing teams.
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