First off, I'll start by saying welcome back to all our Butler fans and readers. If today was any (admittedly brief) indication, you're in for one fun season. I'll save our usual recaps for when the regular season tips off, but for now, here's a few notes and observations from today's 79-44 exhibition victory over Taylor in Indianapolis:
- Butler's biggest offseason addition, guard Tyler Lewis, who transferred to Butler from N.C. State after the 2013-14 season, was as good as advertised in his Bulldog debut. A McDonald's All-American coming out of high school, Lewis' highly-touted all-around skillset showed up early and often this afternoon, en route to an 11 point, five rebound, one assist performance. The 5'11" redshirt junior is already the most naturally gifted passer on the team, which helped not only to open up the floor for Butler to get out and run in transition, but also created open opportunities in the half-court as he bent the defense toward the ball. He may be the most talented point guard Butler has had in years, and considering how much guys like Rotnei Clarke, Alex Barlow and Ron Nored brought to the table, that's saying something.
- It's only been one exhibition game, but it's clear that head coach Chris Holtmann wants to the team to push the pace more this season compared to previous Butler teams. Both Tyler Lewis and Roosevelt Jones emphasized the team's faster pace in the post-game press conferences, and Holtmann was quick to point out how his new point guard opens up the possibilities to get back down the floor quickly. "Tyler's really good in the open floor," Holtmann said.
"That part of my game, I like getting out in transition," Lewis said. "That's gonna be a big part of our offense this year." Considering how shifty guys like Lewis, Jones and even Dunham can be when attacking the basket, transition points may be coming in bunches for the Bulldogs this season.
- Speaking of Dunham, who tied with Jones for a team-high 14 points, the senior guard had easily the most exciting play of the game when he put 6'11" Taylor center Vivian Aiken on a poster during the first half. I repeat: Kellen Dunham. Dunked. On the biggest guy on the floor. It won't be the only exciting play he makes this season, but wow, was that amazing.
- It was an interesting debut for Butler's two new freshman. Center Nate Fowler, who clocks in as the tallest player on the Butler roster at 6'10", 250 pounds, finished with just one rebound and no points, but worked out some kinks as the game went along. Fowler clearly made an impression on the coaching staff this summer, and he'll give the Bulldogs the true center they've lacked since Andrew Smith graduated, but he looked slow at times on defense and played a little soft on the boards. He looked better as the game went on, but don't expect Fowler to jump into the starting lineup early in the season, especially since Tyler Wideman grabbed a team-high 11 rebounds in a starting role today.
Sean McDermott, a guard who drew plenty of Kellen Dunham comparisons over the summer (perpetuated by the fact that the duo both graduated from the same high school), made the most of his time throughout the contest. It's not clear yet how he'll fit into the rotation, but he's got a nice stroke, and he put up six points on 3-of-6 shooting. Body-wise, he looks like a carbon copy of former Georgia State R.J. Hunter, so it'll be fun to see how he develops as the season went on.
- Even though they won in a blowout, Holtmann clearly thought the team needed to work on some things after the game. "I think we were a little soft at times, and our screening wasn't very good offensively," Holtmann said. "It's good for us to learn from that, I think Taylor exposed us in some areas. But we'll work tomorrow and get better."
The Bulldogs will close out their exhibition schedule next Saturday, Nov. 7, against St. Joseph's (Ind.).