Last week, we started our one-per-week Big East basketball previews on the Bluejay Banter Radio Show. Each week for the next 10 or so weeks we'll preview a different Big East team with the help of a media member or coach. First up were the Butler Bulldogs, and we requested help from the Indianapolis Star's Zak Keefer. Give the interview a listen:
Some interesting notes from Keefer:
The fans are already a little concerned after year one of the Brandon Miller era BUT Roosevelt Jones probably would have been one of the best players in the Big East if he hadn't been injured and he could have been the difference in a few of Butler's many close losses.
The Bulldogs are probably a year away, with a strong incoming freshman class, but fans will want to see some progress this year -- "4-14 in the Big East isn't going to cut it."
There will "for sure" be more pressure on the team to win this year with Jones back, not to mention Kellen Dunham, Kameron Woods and Alex Barlow.
Butler's main focus on the recruiting trail has been getting bigger -- the Bulldogs just got "shredded" inside throughout Big East play. According to Keefer's math, Butler was outscored by more than 200 points in the paint. All three freshmen coming in this year are forwards, 6-foot-6 or taller.
The Big East is going to have to win in March if it wants to be considered one of the top conferences in the country, and it didn't do that last year.
Top three in the league this year: (1) Villanova (2) Xavier (3) St. John's.
Creighton's finish: seventh.
This team needs to be consistently good, year in and year out, for the Big East to be a power: St. John's, "because of the New York market."
Butler's key losses
Forward Khyle Marshall: 14.9 points per game and 4.8 rebounds per game in 29 minutes; started every game.
Forward Erik Fromm: 5.5 points per game, 3.5 rebounds per game in 22 minutes; started 21 games.
Guard Elijah Brown: Brown has transferred after spending only a year with the Bulldogs. He was their fourth leading scorer as a freshman.
Butler's key returners
Junior guard Kellen Dunham: Dunham gave Jays fans flashbacks to Evansville's Colt Ryan. He took 14 shots per game last year -- half of them from behind the 3-point line -- but he only connected at a less than 40 percent clip (35 percent from long-range). Still, he needs almost no time to get his shot off and he averaged more than 16 points per game last year, though the Jays (and Jehenns Manigat) held him to 12 at the CenturyLink Center.
Senior forward Kameron Woods: Woods was the Big East's leading rebounder last year, pulling in more than nine per game. He was also Butler's third leading scorer (7.5 ppg). He'll have the same challenge this year as he did last -- anchoring the inside for the undersized Bulldogs in Big East play.
Senior point guard Alex Barlow: Barlow is a former walk-on baseball player who has found a role as the basketball team's floor general. He played 33 minutes per game last year while dishing out 3.5 assists and scoring almost 7 points per game. As Keefer told us, he'll play almost every minute he's not in foul trouble this year.
Butler's three incoming freshman are all forwards, each over 6-foot-6. The Bulldogs clearly continue to focus on getting bigger, but the freshman class is probably a year away from game-changing contributions. Indiana transfer Austin Etherington is someone who could help immediately, but the 6-foot-6 forward, who's eligible to play right away, is out a few more months with a torn ligament in his foot. Keefer said he might be more of a "locker room guy," not someone who's going to light up the stat sheet for the Bulldogs.