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Big East 2016-17 Season Preview: Butler Bulldogs

Will the Dawgs bounce back after losing big locker room leadership?

Jenna Watson/IndyStar

As Chris Holtmann gears up for his third season and first full recruiting class as Butler head coach, the Dawgs are still projected to finish in the middle of the pack.

After losing Kellen Dunham and Roosevelt Jones to graduation, is that projection even too high? Or will new talent step up to the plate?

Last Season

22-11, 10-8 in the Big East; lost in the 2nd round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament to #1 seed Virginia

Notable Returnees (2015-16 Stats)

Kelan Martin - F, Junior (15.7 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 28.3 MPG)

Andrew Chrabascz - F, Senior (10.7 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 30.2 MPG)

Tyler Lewis - PG, R-Senior (5.9 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 19.1 MPG)

Tyler Wideman - F, Junior (7.8 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 24.4 MPG)

Nate Fowler - F, Sophomore (1.2 PPG, 1.3 RPG, 6.3 MPG)

Notable Departures (2015-16 Stats)

Kellen Dunham - G, Graduated (16.2 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 32.4 MPG)

Roosevelt Jones - G, Graduated (13.8 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 33.6 MPG)

Austin Etherington - F, Graduated (3.7 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 12.2 MPG)

Jordan Gathers - G, Graduated (4.1 PPG, 1.2 RPG, 13.1 MPG)

Notable Additions

Avery Woodson - G

Kethan Savage - G

Sean McDermott - G/F

Kamar Baldwin - G

Henry Baddley - G/F

Joey Brunk - F/C

Projected Starting Lineup

PG - Tyler Lewis

SG - Avery Woodson

SF - Kelan Martin

PF - Andrew Chrabascz

PF - Tyler Wideman

Head Coach

Chris Holtmann (45-22 at Butler, 89-76 all time)

Storylines

So. Many. Seniors.

The team is losing a lot of people at the end of this season. Like a lot, a lot. Tyler Lewis, Kethan Savage, Avery Woodson, and Andrew Chrabascz to be exact. Not to mention the two walk-on players Steven Bennett and Trey Pettus. That’s basically half the team. All of the guys are going to want to end their college careers with a bang and work as hard as possible.

Kelan Martin = NBA Draft?

Kelan Martin arguably could have been ready for the NBA Draft after the conclusion of last season, earning All-Big East Second Team honors. I don’t see this season taking a slump from last season; I only see him getting better. Martin will continue to increase his draft stock this season.

New Guys Everywhere

So many players this season are playing their first minutes in a Bulldog uniform, including two transfers, a redshirt freshman and three true freshman. The question as the season moves forward is how consistent this team will be along with how their team chemistry appears.

Something to Play For

After the deaths of both Andrew Smith during last season and Joel Cornette earlier this school year, the team and the campus as a whole has realized how deep the impact of the Butler Way really goes. Woodson even changed his number from #33 to #0 to honor the late Cornette and pay his respects. Expect the team to rally around the Butler family and Butler Way tradition again this season.

Three Reasons for Optimism

Kelan Martin

This kid is good. I mean, really good. Preseason All-Big East First Team. Player of the Year darkhorse. He’s going to keep being really good this season.

Transfers Galore

The team welcomes two experienced transfers this season in Woodson and Savage. This experience will continue to help the team this season and give them some much needed on and off the court leadership. Lewis has already paid dividends after his first season with the team and will continue to do so this season as well.

Hinkle Fieldhouse

The team gets to play and practice in Hinkle Fieldhouse EVERYDAY. It’s hard not to be humbled by that kind of history and everyone who has put on a Bulldog uniform before them.

Three Reasons for Pessimism

Kellen and Rose are gone :(

The offseason losses of Kellen Dunham and Roosevelt Jones to graduation were hard on the leadership of this team. The minutes and points per game these two contributed will be greatly missed. New guys are absolutely going to have to step into this missing leadership role for the good of the team.

Villanova/Xavier/Big East in general

The Big East has the defending National Championship winning team. And Butler has to play them twice. Xavier was a #2 seed in last year’s NCAA Tournament. And Butler has to play them twice. The Big East has stepped up its game big time, and getting through this conference will be no easy task for any team.

Did I mention that Kellen and Rose are gone?

Seriously guys, these were huge losses. I’m still upset about them.

Best Case Scenario

The team works together very well, and the team chemistry is off the charts as the season moves forward. Martin has a monster, off-the-charts season and earns Big East POY. Kamar Baldwin becomes his great successor. Butler wins the NCAA Tournament (or at least make it past the 2nd round).

Worst Case Scenario

Martin can’t repeat his season last year. The freshman do very freshman like things. One of the transfers gets hurt. Bulldogs have a 0-9 record against St. John’s, DePaul and Providence. Hinkle Fieldhouse starts crumbling from the inside out.