Fresh off a convincing victory over Indiana in the Crossroads Classic, Butler defeated Vermont 81-69 in their final nonconference game of the season.
With the win, the Bulldogs now head into Big East play with an impressive 11-1 record, with their one blemish being a head-scratching loss to Indiana State earlier this month.
By name alone, Vermont may have appeared as a cupcake opponent, but a deeper look into the Catamounts’ resume should’ve resulted in a more cautious perspective. At 8-4, their RPI ranking of 98th is ahead of both DePaul and St. John’s. The Catamounts had also played in four of the last seven America East Conference championship games.
The distraction of being the highest ranked team in Indiana could’ve gotten to Butler and Vermont would’ve been happy to seize on that possible hindrance. Instead, Coach Holtmann had the Bulldogs ready to go from the opening tip. Once they grabbed a 13-12, they never trailed again.
Let’s take a look at what we learned from the win before Butler plays St. John’s to begin conference play.
Andrew Chrabascz is the nonconference MVP
Kelan Martin might’ve scored more points, Tyler Lewis certainly had more assists, and Kamar Baldwin recorded more steals. But that doesn’t matter. Chrabascz’s performance in Wednesday’s game was an example of his impact on the team since the season began- only on steroids.
He is an absolute nightmare for opposing big men and can help the offense avoid a nightmare of their own when nothing else is working.
He may not be the first option on offense, but when called upon, no one is more capable of making lemonade out of rocks than Chrabascz.
The Bulldogs had big wins over Arizona, Cincinnati and Indiana. They go 0-3 in those games without his contributions.
Kelan Martin isn’t perfect
Martin did his best Paul George impression in Bankers Life Fieldhouse last weekend against Indiana. Heck, his quick scoring bursts made Reggie Miller smile down from the arena’s rafters.
Against the Catamounts, however, things didn’t come to easy for him early on.
Martin didn’t make his first basket until the 5:41 mark of the first half. Those first 15 minutes were willed with forced shots and ugly turnovers. Even the best players go through rough patches and Martin responded well in the second half, making all three of his shot attempts.
Kethan Savage is coming
If you fear the Bulldogs now, the worst is still yet to come.
To this point, Savage’s career at Butler has been disappointing. After sitting out a year, he’s battled shoulder surgery and pneumonia. He’s made little impact thus far, but his game against Vermont is encouraging. Savage looked confident and aggressive and if Butler can get Savage to return to his form at George Washington, look out
Big East world.