Numbers never lie, but which are the most truthful?
Through four games, theButler Bulldogs' record places them in the top half of the Big East Conference. Just four other teams have made it through most of November unscathed. With just one win (in overtime) against a top 100 opponent and two other close shaves, Butler has proven that its better to be lucky than good.
Butler ranks last in the conference for free throw percentage, field goal percentage defense, and assists per game. That's not the hallmark of a winning team. Still, Brandon Miller's squad has found ways to win each time they've taken the floor.
Taking care of the basketball has been a big part of it. Butler ranks in the top-ten nationally in turnover percentage, giving the ball away on just 12.5 percent of their trips up the floor. Swingman Khyle Marshall, the most experienced player on the team, has been the catalyst. Marshall led the team with the lowest turnover rate each of his past three seasons. Early on this year, he's coughed it up just twice in 45 possessions used.
As important as it has been for Butler to not give its opponents free possessions, the Bulldogs have been highly effective at taking away second chances. Marshall and Kameron Woodshave led Butler to the second-best defensive rebounding percentage in the conference. Woods, second in the league, brings down a board 26.5 percent of the time on defense. He has improved his shooting as well in the early going, but Woods' effectiveness on the glass has been a main factor in Butler's 4-0 record.
Shooting guard Kellen Dunhamstarted the year hot, with 39 points in Butler's first two contests against Lamar and Princeton. Since then, he's struggled with shot selection and turnovers. In a 59-58 win over Ball State, Dunham shot just 2-of-13 from the floor. Any good shooter will have off nights, but that performance cooled off hope that Dunham would be able to step into departed top scorer Rotnei Clarke's shoes right away.
Dunham's recent scoring struggles have opened the door for Marshall, who put on a show with a career-high 26 points against Vanderbilt. The senior leader showed up four nights later to lead the team with 14 in Muncie. Marshall tops the Big East with a 127.2 offensive rating, despite a dreadful 5-of-13 clip from the foul line.
How will Butler perform when it takes the court later this week in the Old Spice Classic? The Bulldogs were projected to finish second-to-last in the Big East's preseason rankings and have the worst Pomeroy rating of any undefeated team in the league. Yet, they've managed to play error-free basketball and work for rebounds when it has counted most. The 2013-14 Butler season depends on which statistics hold out.
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