There was an air of confidence from Chris Holtmann while he was talking about the Butler Bulldogs at Big East Media Day on Wednesday in New York City.
Last season, Holtmann took a team that went 14-17 overall and 4-14 in conference play the year before and even with uncertainties in the head coaching position, he helped guide the team to a 23-11 record, a 12-6 mark in Big East play, and were downed by just three points in overtime in a Round of 32 matchup with Notre Dame.
This season should be interesting for the Bulldogs as both Alex Barlow and Kameron Woods have moved on from their time at BU. The core though remains intact, with the additions of Nathan Fowler and Sean McDermott coming in as freshmen, and transfer Tyler Lewis from North Carolina State. And the head coach appeared to be aplomb and confident when talking about his squad.
"I think we have a really good returning core of mature guys, competitive guys," he said. "But how much the loss of Kam and Alex is significant and how we can manage that remains to be seen, because those guys were significant in terms of impacting winning and losing."
Get to Know Nathan Fowler Get to Know Sean McDermott
It will be interesting to see who they can overcome those losses, but for the Bulldogs another aspect of last season was the learning curve that the team took on and how the new guys can transition into the team.
"I think in some respects the year, our first year in the conference helped us last year and I hope that last year keeps us hungry and motivated and thirsty to do even more," Holtmann said. "Having said that, I think the sign of this team is can we deal with kind of the ups and downs, get beat up a bit that happens when you are in a power conference and can we handle that in the right way.
"We did last year and because of that, we played really well. I don't think you know that for sure until you get a chance to work with your team on a regular basis."
Shifting over to looking at the schedule, especially the nonconference where much like the other teams of the Big East, Butler has a tough slate on hand for this season. For his perspective on slate of games and to whether they will prep the Bulldogs for this season, he got a chuckle out of my remark on how difficult it is playing against Cincinnati on their home court.
"I do, we put that on there because we know how hard its going to be. They're gonna be Top 25, and it's going to be very hard to play," Holtmann said.
"We know what that is going to be, a tremendous nonconference challenge. We also have Purdue in a neutral game site. So you know, those are good games that force us to figure out where we are at and where we need to be."
Butler does open up Big East play this season against a Kris Dunn-led Providence team. Holtmann wasn't short on praise for the New London, Connecticut point guard who has been racking up preseason accolades, one after another it seems.
"Yeah, you're taking who ever comes along on that day. You know there's no easy ones. Certainly that's the case with Providence. They are terrific and well coached. I think they have the preseason National Player of the Year. think there is no question about it in my mind ... I think he's that good. ... I think it's going to be a great challenge."
Either way, the Butler Bulldogs look poised once again heading into this season as well as Coach Holtmann, who has the team in place to do great things again.