Butler University, a 4,500 student school in Indianapolis (located just minutes from Broad Ripple) has become a regular in the AP Top 25 polls. This year is no different. The Bulldogs enter the season ranked 11.
Butler finished a remarkable 26-6 last season. It wasn’t remarkable because of the number of wins — they’ve averaged an astonishing 26.2 wins a year over the past four — it was that they did it with nine freshman and sophomores. They didn’t have a single senior on their squad, and yet, check out the accomplishments:
-Captured the Horizon League regular season title
-Advanced to the NCAA tournament for the third consecutive year
-Ranked in the AP Top 25 poll for 12 consecutive weeks.
It’d be impossible not to call that a successful season for a team of Butler’s stature, but in truth, it kind of was. After winning three tourney games over the previous two years, the Bulldogs were bounced in the first round by a beatable LSU squad.
Coach Brad Stevens has his team playing a very legitimate, and very competitive out-of-conference schedule. The Bulldogs play nine teams that advanced to post-season play last season, and 11 teams that won at least 20 games.
There’s a Thanksgiving tournament in Anaheim that has Butler playing 18th ranked Minnesota (as well two other games, one of which could be a nationally televised matchup with UCLA). After that, Butler heads east to play in the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden (where, coincidentally, Indiana University will also be competing).
They open play at Hinkle Fieldhouse against Davidson on November 14, also hosting Ohio State and Xavier in December.
Butler didn’t lose a single player or coach from last year’s squad. That’s scary.
Andrew Smith: Smith is the only incoming recruit. The 6’11” three-star recruit out of Indianapolis’ Covenant Christian High School averaged 14.5 points, 10.6 rebounds and 2.8 blocks in his senior season. If his performance in the exhibition opener was any indication (he posted 10 points, six rebounds and three swats), he could serve a very valuable role off the Butler basketball team’s bench this season.
Chase Stigall: Stigall’s a 6’4” guard from New Castle. He redshirted last year, but came to Butler with plenty of expectations after leading New Castle High to the 2006 Class 3A State Championship at Conseco Fieldhouse.
Emerson Kampen: A 6’9″ Center from Yorktown, Kampen is a preferred walk-on who redshirted last year. He has a sweet shooting touch, but weighs just 180 pounds. He’ll likely be the last man off the bench.
Connersville’s own Matt Howard led Butler in points and rebounds — and led the Horizon League conference in blocks — on his way to winning Player of the Year honors. He’s back to team with sophomore phenom Gordon Hayward, who hails from Brownsburg (can you tell Butler has a lot of Indiana kids? Nine to be exact).
Hayward, last year’s Horizon League Newcomer of the Year, reportedly grew an inch in the offseason while playing for the US in the FIBA U-19 World Basketball Championships in New Zealand. He was named to the all-tourney in that event, and is considered to have the most pro potential of any Butler basketball player in the school’s history.
Backup forwards Willie Veasley and Avery Jukes are experienced, defensive minded players, and Garrett Butcher showed signs of promise in his freshman season. The biggest difference maker could be the tall freshman Smith. Howard struggled with fouling issues last year, and if Smith proves capable, he’d give the Bulldogs a much needed post presence when Howard has to sit.
Sophomore Shelvin Mack is the leader in the backcourt. He ran the point for the U-19 squad that he played on with Haywood, but Butler prefers to play him at the two guard in their offense. He led the team with 3.5 assists, while also averaging 11.9 points and 4.4 rebounds in 2008-09.
Last year’s PG, sophomore Ronald Norad suffered through a stress fracture in his leg during the offseason, and was not in the starting lineup for the exhibition opener. Shawn Vanzant started, and Zach Hahn played 15 strong minutes (hitting 3-of-3 from behind the arc). Expect all three players to get significant time on the floor this year, with Grant Leiendecker (Fort Wayne), Nick Rodgers (Noblesville) and Stigall providing the depth.
From the dominant inside force of Matt Howard, to the versatile combo of Shelvin Mack and Gordon Hayward, all the components are in place for a historic season for the Butler Bulldogs. If head coach Brad Stevens’ squad can stay healthy, the sight of Butler in the NCAA Final Four (hosted in Lucas Oil Stadium), is not an unrealistic possibility for fans of basketball in Indianapolis.
For more Indianapolis sports news and views, keep coming back to funcityfinder.com. And if you want to catch Butler live in action on a frequent basis this season, check out more information about relocation to Indianapolis.