Butler Bulldogs Basketball Season Preview

The college hoops season is right around the corner, and Busting Brackets is here to whet your basketball-starved appetite. Over the next five weeks, we are publishing season previews — team by team, conference by conference — to offer a glimpse into the upcoming season. Busting Brackets is giving you the lowdown on the biggest storylines, offseason changes and x-factors for each team and each league as we roll into the 2012-13 season. Our complete season preview archive can be accessed here. Buckle up, peeps.

Butler Bulldogs

Last Season

22-15 (11-7 Horizon)
Lost in CBI Semifinals vs. Pittsburgh
Missed NCAA tournament for first time under Brad Stevens

Key Returning Players:

Andrew Smith, C
Khyle Marshall, F
Chrishawn Hopkins, G (Kicked off team last week)
Roosevelt Jones, F

Key Additions:

Rotnei Clark, G (Arkansas Transfer, sat out last season)
Kellen Dunham, G (Pendleton Heights HS)
Chris Harrison-Docks, PG (Okemos HS)
Devontae Morgan, F (Tampa Prep)

Key Losses:

Ronald Nored, G
Chrishawn Hopkins, G (Kicked off team)

Top Non-Conference Games:

Nov. 13 @ Xavier (ESPN College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon)
Nov. 19 vs. Marquette (Maui Invitational Tournament)
Dec. 8 @ Northwestern
Dec. 15 vs. Indiana (Crossroads Classic, Neutral Site)
Dec. 29 @ Vanderbilt
Jan. 19 vs. Gonzaga

Top Conference Games:

Jan. 9 @ Saint Joseph’s
Jan. 23 @ LaSalle
Jan. 26 vs. Temple
Jan. 31 @ Saint Louis
Mar. 2 @ VCU
Mar. 9 vs. Xavier

Breakout Player:

Roosevelt Jones. Jones arrived in Indy last fall tagged with lofty expectations, and he didn’t disappoint in his first season at the school. Jones led the Bulldogs in rebounding as a freshman while chipping in a shade under eight points per game. With an expanded role, the talented forward could be poised for a breakout sophomore season in the A-10.

X-Factor:

Offensive consistency. It wasn’t there for the Bulldogs last season, and ultimately why the program fell well short of expectations. Butler averaged just 63.6 points per game last season and as a team owned the fifth-worst 3-point clip (28.1-percent) in the country. Andrew Smith and Khyle Marshall carried their own weight. Now the supporting cast has to pick up the slack, namely Chase Stigall and Arkansas transfer Rotnei Clarke. Clarke could be just what the doctor ordered for Brad Stevens, who is in desperate need of a reliable threat from downtown. There are few in the country better at that than the sniper Clarke, who has just one season of eligibility remaining.

Best Case:

Jones has a breakout year, emerging as the top sophomore in the A-10. Stigall develops a consistent outside stroke and, along with the dependable Clarke and freshman Kellen Dunham, Butler becomes a legitimate threat from the perimeter. Andrew Smith channels his inner Matt Howard and has a dazzling senior season reminiscent of the one Howard had two seasons ago. Kyle Marshall continues to be the do-everything guy and glue of the team on both ends of the floor. Thanks to Butler’s stingy defense, which is as stellar as usual, the team avoids any prolonged droughts during the season. The Bulldogs, led by a blend of senior leadership and youthful talent, finish the year in the top four of the A-10 in their first-ever season in the league. Coach Stevens maneuvers his way back into the NCAA tournament field, where he’s as dangerous as any coach in America.

Worst Case:

Rotnei Clarke alone isn’t enough to allay the team’s shooting troubles. Smith doesn’t have a Matt Howard breakout senior season. An injury befalls one of the team’s two indispensable players (Howard or Marshall). Jones has a sophomore slump. Butler is buried in a loaded A-10, flustered by the huge uptick in competition. The Bulldogs finish the year in the bottom half of the league and miss out on an at-large berth thanks to a sub-.500 conference record. Talks of whether Butler can survive in the improved A-10 surface immediately.

Projected Finish:

20-13 (9-7 Atlantic-10)
Lose in Quarterfinals of A-10 Tourney
Nab one of final at-large bids thanks to improved SOS