In the heart of Basketball Country, the Butler University Bulldogs are poised and ready for a challenging but promising season ahead. With returning stars, up and coming players, an intense regular season, a legendary homecourt advantage, and a top of the line coaching staff, it seems that the Bulldogs are ready to take on whatever and whoever comes their way in the 2016-17 season.
Despite the loss of two Butler staples in recently graduated players Kellen Dunham and Roosevelt Jones, the Bulldogs still have multiple returning impact players.
Junior forward Kelan Martin, last year’s second leading scorer (15.7 PPG) and statistically best rebounder (6.8 RPG) returns looking to lead the team to yet another tournament bid. Over the last two years, we’ve seen Martin improve his 3-point percentage by over 13%, his free throw percentage by over 6%, and his overall field goal percentage by 4%. I can only see these numbers continuing to improve, with much of the Dawgs’ offense running through Martin this season.
The Bulldogs are coming back strong this year in other areas as well. 3 of the top 4 rebounders from last year are returning. 2 of the top 3 assist leaders are returning. Tyler Lewis, the senior point guard out of North Carolina is returning as the team’s leader in free throw percentage and looks to be one of the top distributors in the Big East conference this year.
While the Dawgs will miss Jones and Dunham, they have other returning players that can step and fill their gaps.
Up and Coming Players
Along with their veterans, the Bulldogs have some promising new stars to keep an eye on as well.
Avery Woodson, a transfer from Memphis, started and reached double figures in each of the two pre-season exhibition games at Hinkle Fieldhouse. Kethan Savage, a transfer from George Washington, came off the bench and tallied sixteen points and two steals in the first exhibition game against Wabash College. Savage sat out of the next game for precautionary injury reasons. Sean McDermott, the redshirt freshman from Indiana looks to be another scoring option off of the bench after going 3 for 4 from behind the arc in the Bulldogs’ most recent exhibition game against Saginaw Valley State. These players, coupled with the returning big men should give Butler the boost in scoring that they need.
Challenging Regular Season.
The Big East looks to be one of the most challenging conferences in all of college basketball this year. With teams like the reigning champions, and insanely loaded, Villanova Wildcats, Xavier Musketeers, and the Creighton Bluejays, the Dawgs’ regular season will be a tough one. However, this is a blessing and a curse. With teams that are so highly coveted (all were mentioned in College Pride Press’ top 25 preseason article) Butler’s record may not be as strong as the last two seasons: but at the same time, pulling out some clutch wins against these big time teams will ensure a high seeding come March.
Legendary Home Court Advantage
Butler fans know that Hinkle fieldhouse is a basketball temple in and of its own, but the iconic court also lends itself to an extreme home court advantage, especially in a sold-out environment. Already in the Bulldogs’ second exhibition game on November 6th, Hinkle Fieldhouse was sold out and noticeably ready for some basketball action. This will not be the first time that the stands are packet to the gills. Butler’s schedule this year accounts for 14 home games. The Dawgs also play Indiana in the Crossroads Classics which will take place in Bankerslife Fieldhouse (the Home of the Indiana Pacers) which is fifteen minutes South of campus. Even against high ranked opponents like Villanova and Xavier the benefit of Butler’s home crowd will give the Bulldogs a boost in energy and hopefully wins.
Top of the Line Coaching
Chris Holtmann returns in his third season as the Bulldogs’ head coach. As an acclaimed recruiter and defensive strategist, the Dawgs look to ride their recent success into yet another winning season. In each of his last two seasons at Butler he led the team to over twenty wins and three total tournament wins. Even three years ago in his final season with Gardner-Webb University he lead the Runnin’ Bulldogs to a 21-13 season. With experience under his belt and a team that is hungry for a win, Holtmann is poised for another successful season.