Butler 2019 Record: 16-17, 7-11 Big East (NIT First round, lost to Nebraska)
Graduated Seniors: Nate Fowler (C), Paul Jorgensen (G)
Early departures/ transfers: Joey Brunk (C), Jerald Gillens-Butler (G)
Incoming talent: Bryce Nze (transfer from Milwaukee, now eligible), Derrik Smits (grad transfer from Valparaiso), John-Michael Mulloy (C), Markeese Hastings (F), Khalif Battle (G),
Likely top 5: Kamar Baldwin (G) | Sean McDermott (G) | Jordan Tucker (W) | Derrik Smits (C) | Bryce Nze (F)
Butler last season:
The Bulldogs returned a lot of their previous year’s talent, but finished 16-17 overall. A solid offensive team that managed to not turn the ball over and shoot well, the Buldog s generally struggled with stopping opponents from scoring on either side of the three-point line.
Rumble: Preseason outlooks and polls have been relatively bearish on the Butler Bulldogs. What are fans expecting or seeking from this upcoming season?
Butler has done so much with so little for so long, the fan base is spoiled. With the Bulldogs, the whole is usually greater than sum of the parts, and that was not the case in 2018-19. After last season, Butler fans are cautious and seemingly in prove-it-to-me mode.
Rumble: How do you think Kamar Baldwin compares to other Big East guards like Myles Powell and Markus Howard?
Baldwin will never be the scorer those two are, although he has refined mechanics to make his shot more efficient. Baldwin is perhaps a better all-around guard than those two, but he’ll have to show he is by leading Butler to more wins.
Rumble: What are the strengths and weaknesses of this Bulldogs team?
Butler has the talent to match up with most of the Big East, adding versatility and depth. Two transfer posts, 7-1 Derrik Smits and 6-7 Bryze Nze, will help. But in all measurements of toughness, Butler was lacking last season: 2-10 on the road, 3-8 in games decided by six or fewer points, 1-6 in last seven. If those remain weaknesses, Butler again will be near bottom of Big East.
Rumble: Butler lost numerous games last season down the stretch. Why couldn’t they close out games? Do you foresee those issues to linger into next season?
See above. Reasons are hard to identify. Leadership might have been lacking, and post defense was inadequate. Baldwin sometimes tried to do it himself – understandable, given how his teammates played. Until I see Butler play a few close games against high-major opponents, it is hard to say whether those failures will persist.
Rumble: Which player does Butler most need to see development from?
I at first thought Smits, but he has not done much in preseason. If Duke transfer Jordan Tucker plays like the NBA prospect he wants to become, he could change the trajectory of Butler’s season. Nze is a key addition, and Sean McDermott could have a breakout season as a fifth-year senior.
Rumble: Do you have any win-total prediction for this year?
I don’t make predictions, unless required by my IndyStar editors. I am content to watch it all play out.