A very Merry Christmas for coach Brandon Miller and the Butler Bulldogs. Entering the season with a number of questions--new coach, new mascot, new lineup--Butler has impressed through their 2013 nonconference schedule. They enter the holiday season with three wins over top 100 opponents and two close losses to top competition on a neutral floor.
So what can Santa bring to Indianapolis this year?
Healthy Dunham and Marshall-
Khyle Marshall and Kellen Dunham have carried the load for Butler throughout the season's first eleven games. The pair average 35 points per game between them. Dunham's kept his hot hand from beyond the arc, shooting 47.1 percent from three-point land, and makes a strong case for most improved player anywhere this season. Marshall has shown NBA talent at times and an ability to take over games. As long as both players are on the floor for Butler, this team has the talent to beat anybody in the Big East.
A role for Erik Fromm-
Senior forward Erik Fromm is a man in need of a mission. Fromm's started the season desperately trying to develop himself into a reliable stretch-four, jacking up 39 three-point attempts so far this season. One problem with that: he's made only 23 percent of his shots from beyond the arc. Fromm's three-point shooting percentage has decreased each season since his sophomore year. Even after two solid games against Manchester and Purdue, Fromm has given Butler fans little reason to expect more from him on the offensive end. Freshman Andrew Chrabascz is the most efficient scorer on Butler roster (129.9 offensive rating) in limited minutes. If he can show more reliable effort on defense, look for the youngster to take more and more minutes from Fromm.
Made free throws-
Butler shot pretty well from the free throw line in losses to Oklahoma State and LSU. However, a pair of clanked Khyle Marshall foul shot attempts at the end of regulation threw away a chance to beat the Cowboys. Butler has made just 65.3 percent of its free throws as a team so far this season. Only Xavier has struggled more in the Big East. Expect conference games to come down to a few points either way. An extra made free throw or two per game could be the difference in Butler's NCAA Tournament resume.
A signature win-
Despite back-to-back valiant efforts at the Old Spice Classic, Butler left Orlando without a quality win to its name. New Years Eve brings an opportunity to change that, as 8th-ranked Villanova visits Hinkle Fieldhouse to kick off Butler's first season in the Big East. The Wildcats might not still be undefeated--Villanova travels to #2 Syracuse on the 28th--but would qualify as a top-notch scalp for a Butler team that wants to get on the national radar.