St. John's (11-2, 0-1 Big East) faces Butler tomorrow afternoon in Carnesecca Arena, hoping to bounce back from the road loss at Seton Hall on Wednesday afternoon.
Our full preview is on the way. And to get to know the Butler Bulldogs (10-4, 0-1 Big East) better, we reached out to Dirkus Callahan @DirkusBH at Butler Hoops to learn about the once-top-25, always gritty Butler Bulldogs this year, who have some solid wins under their belts over North Carolina and a non-conference game against Georgetown.
Thanks to Butler Hoops for the intel. Our responses to their questions on St. John's are on the Butler Hoops site - and let's dig in to the Bulldogs!
RITG A win over North Carolina was impressive, but losses to Tennessee and Indiana took some luster off of what looked like a surprising season for Butler - so far. How good is this team, really? Are they a top 25 team, or do they just matchup well agains some foes?
Butler Hoops They're a solid team, but in my opinion they're most likely to finish in the middle of the pack of the Big East and hopefully get into the NCAA tournament. They're probably a fringe top 25 team, and they do match up better against teams that don't have a lot 3 point threats, but I think the North Carolina game was just a case of Butler out-toughing the Tar Heels.
Rumble Why has Butler been successful this year - both in terms of talent and in terms of scheme and effort?
Butler Hoops It's really been just the overall toughness and physicality of the team is better this season. The players coming back really made a commitment to getting ready for the Big East season in the weight room during the offseason, and the freshmen are just built more like Big East players than last year's class. Talent-wise, they're probably near the bottom of the Big East on paper, but they've been able to make up for it for the most part with how they play defense.
Rumble I thought guard play would have been an issue for the Bulldogs this year. Has it been? What has the backcourt done well and what don't they do well?
Butler Hoops Guard play hasn't really been an issue for the most part, but guard depth certainly is and will continue to be for the remainder of the season. What Butler's guards (Alex Barlow, Roosevelt Jones and Kellen Dunham) do well is defend (other than Dunham) and Jones is a very good rebounder while Barlow is at least a threat of knocking down a three or two.
Overall offensively though, Dunham really carries the load for this team. Jones can get in the lane, but has really struggled finishing against teams with the kind of length and athleticism that they'll face in the Big East. If any of them get into foul trouble though, that's been a problem for Butler because of the lack of depth.
Rumble What's the vibe around Chris Holtmann, a man not picked for the Butler job but thrust into it when Brandon Miller stepped away? And what does the fanbase think about Miller's decision?
Butler Hoops Holtmann was hired by Miller once Brandon took over the position last season, but in looking at the two resumes to that point, Holtmann probably was more qualified to be the head coach other than Miller's previous ties to the program.
The general vibe is that he'll probably be named the head coach pretty soon (ed. note: Chris Holtmann was named full head coach today) , and I think for the most part, people think he deserves it for the job he's done of not just keeping the guys together, but in the decisions he's made during games in terms of using timeouts, drawing up plays, etc. that seemed to be improved from last season.
I think if anything official had come out on why Miller stepped away, there would probably be more of a reaction on whether to feel bad for him or be upset about the decision to step away, but nothing has, so at this point fans appear to just be ready to move on and make Holtmann officially the coach of this team.
Rumble What does a successful Butler game look like? What's the team's general game plan?
Butler Hoops Unlike most teams, a successful Butler game typically is an ugly, physical kind of game in which the game can at times be grinded to a halt. Butler's general game plan is to take away whatever the other team does well and make them as uncomfortable as possible in their offense.
In the case of St. John's, they're most likely going to try to take away driving lanes and make them more of a jump shooting team, and pound the glass and try to create more shot opportunities for themselves to make up for their general lack of offense compared to the rest of the conference.