4. Butler Bulldogs
Although expectations inside the locker room of the historical Hinkle FieldHouse may have been high, not many people outside of Butler’s inner circle expected the Bulldogs to have this strong of a start.
Picked to finish second to last in the 2023-2024 Big East Preseason Poll, second-year Butler coach Thad Matta has the Bulldogs in a good spot -- a potential NCAA Tournament-level spot -- standing at 10-3 (1-1) on the year with quality wins over Texas Tech and Boise State.
The key to Butler’s strong start has been the emergence of Michigan State transfer Pierre Brooks, who is averaging an impressive 16.8 Pts, 4.2 Reb, and 1.1 Ast on the year.
Aside from Brooks, Matta has also gotten strong play from Northeastern transfer Jahmyl Telfort (14.8 Pts, 4.8 Reb, 3.1 Ast), UC-Irvine transfer DJ Davis (12.8 Pts, 3.2 Reb, 2.4 Ast) and St. John’s transfer Posh Alexander (10.7 Pts, 4.5 Reb, 5.2 Ast).
With Posh Alexander running the point, the offense has improved immensely as Butler has been able to utilize his quickness to move in transition or to deploy half-court sets involving ball screens to open the floor and/or to allow for isolation.
With their only “uncompetitive” loss coming to Michigan State in mid-November, the Bulldogs have shown tangible signs of progress in year two of the Thad Matta era.
Can the Bulldogs continue their strong start into January to continue their climb into the NCAA Tournament picture? It’s certainly feasible given their surprising start.