#14 Butler: 2010-11 Basketball Preview
Overall Rank: #14
Conference Rank: #1 Horizon League
2009-10: 33-5, 18-0
2009-10 postseason: NCAA
Coach: Brad Stevens (89-15 at Butler, 89-15 overall)
Butler’s NCAA Tournament heroics are well documented. However, many forget that this is a team that went from December 22nd all the way to the NCAA Final between loses. That is 25 consecutive victories for those keeping track. This group will look a little different without versatile forwards Gordon Hayward and Willie Veasley, but the Bulldogs have the talent to make another deep tournament run.
Key Losses: F Gordon Hayward, F Avery Jukes, F Willie Veasley
Chrishawn Hopkins may be the most talented of the newcomers, but the backcourt is already stacked. Hopkins can run the point and do plenty of scoring from anywhere on the floor. His superb athleticism may eventually make him an impact player as a freshman, but he has some upperclassmen to unseat first. Erik Fromm and Khyle Marshall will both get long looks for the vacant spot in the frontcourt. There are other, slightly more experienced options, but both Fromm and Marshall have the potential to fill the rebounding and scoring left behind by Hayward and Veasley.
Shelvin Mack is ready to take over this team and attempt to lead them back to another Final Four. The 6-3 junior is a superb outside shooter and a great all-around scorer. After averaging 14.1 points, 3.0 assists and 3.7 rebounds last year, Mack earned some all-conference accolades. As an upperclassman, Mack should be ready to put up even better numbers and compete for Player of the Year accolades in the Horizon League. Fellow returning starter Ronald Nored has some hardware too after being named the league’s co-Defensive Player of the Year. Nored is not much of a scorer, but he is a fine ball handler and obviously a great defender. Hayward played on the wing last year and seniors Zach Hahn and Shawn Vanzant are the likely candidates to move into a starting role. Hahn is a great outside shooter, while Vanzant will add a touch more size and rebounding ability than Hahn. Grant Leiendecker and Chase Stigall will provide even more depth on the perimeter.
With the backcourt playing smaller than last year, it will be very important for the Bulldogs to find a big body to compliment frontcourt superstar Matt Howard. Hayward averaged 8.2 rebounds per game and Veasley added 4.3. Even with those two joining Howard, Butler was not that great of a rebounding team. For the time being Coach Brad Stevens may have to play a little musical chairs in the frontcourt. The two newcomers will have a go at it, but so will Garrett Butcher, Emerson Kampen and Andrew Smith. Butcher played the most of any of those guys last year, but he only averaged 5.6 minutes per game. At 6-11 and 239 pounds, Smith has the most size and would help out the most on the glass.
Who to Watch:
No matter who starts next to him, Matt Howard will have to hold the frontcourt together. After tallying 11.6 points and 5.2 rebounds during his junior campaign, Howard is more than ready to fill the void. Howard has the size to play the five spot and could certainly do more rebounding than he did last year, but Hayward usually sucked in most of the opportunities. Howard will get those rebounds now, but he cannot do it all by himself.
This is a team that knows how to win. Mack, Nored and Howard are three great players to build around. Questions remain at the other two starting spots, but there are plenty of options for Coach Stevens. This group may not be able to go 18-0 in conference play again, but that was a pretty freakish accomplishment even for a team this good. However, by March the less experienced players will know their roles and Butler will be a tough out.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Ronald Nored, Junior, Guard, 6.0 ppg
Shawn Vanzant, Senior, Guard, 2.8 ppg
Shelvin Mack, Junior, Guard, 14.1 ppg
Matt Howard, Senior, Forward, 11.6 ppg
Andrew Smith, Sophomore, Center, 1.0 ppg
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