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Week 5 Progress Report: Butler Bulldogs

Monday's laugher against Manchester begs the question: How much does Butler need its bench to succeed in the Big East?

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Entering Monday's game against Manchester, the Butler Bulldogs' starters had played over three-quarters of the team's minutes. Only Providence relies on its starting five more in the Big East. A 100-41 win provided a cathartic victory as well as some much-needed rest for key players such as Kellen Dunham and Khyle Marshall. But how much will that matter in the long run?

Basketball commentators often harp on the need for a deep bench, especially in the NCAA Tournament. Players get tired after a long stretch of conference play, shooters' legs lose some strength, and injury or foul trouble can open up the need for greater reserve play in a hurry.

This year's version of the Bulldogs will still take some time to shake out, but close games in the Old Spice Classic included just three bench players earning more than three minutes in a contest (Andrew Chrabascz, Jackson Aldridge, and Elijah Brown). With Brown out against LSU, Butler's starters just played more.

Butler's past indicates that a short bench won't be an issue when it comes to the postseason. Brad Stevens' NCAA runner-up squads in 2010 and 2011 ranked 319th and 247th in the nation in bench minutes. Both squads featured eight-man rotations (with a little Garrett Butcher sprinkled in).

In addition to Butler's two best seasons, two conference champions and three Elite Eight teams ranked lower than 300th in bench minutes last year. Six teams in the 2012 Elite Eight in 2012 doled out fewer than 30 percent of their minutes to reserves.

As the Bulldogs wrap up nonconference action, look for coach Brandon Miller to rely more and more on his starters to carry the load. Will this tendency boost his team's chances or doom them in March? Butler fans have to hope that recent history repeats itself.

News and notes-

Kellen Dunham made the Big East Weekly Honor Roll with 29 points, five rebounds, and four assists against North Dakota.

Dunham ranks third in the Big East in scoring (18.7 PPG). Kameron Woods leads the league with 8.9 rebounds per game.

Butler has now won 24 of its last 27 games at home, with at least 10 home wins in each of the past 18 seasons.