NCAA tournament team previews: Butler Bulldogs
As part of its preview of the 2015 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, SI.com is taking a look at all 68 teams in the field. RPI and SOS data from realtimerpi.com. Adjusted offense and defense are from kenpom.com and measure the number of points scored and allowed per 100 possessions, and the team’s national rank. All stats are through Monday, March 16.
Record: 22-10 (12-6 Big East)
Adjusted offensive/defensive efficiency: 107.5 (67th)/91.7 (11th)
Seed: Midwest No. 6
Impact player: Roosevelt Jones, junior, guard. 12.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 96.3 offensive rating
The Case For: After a wheezing 14-17 campaign a year ago, the Bulldogs completely recalibrated and returned to a familiar way of doing things. Under Chris Holtmann—who became the full-time head coach once Brandon Miller did not return from a leave of absence—Butler again became a contender, relying on stout defense (11th nationally in efficiency) that is a terrific failsafe during tournament play.
The Bulldogs have a pure scorer in Kellen Dunham (16.7 ppg) and, in Jones, one of the most unconventionally effective all-around performers in college basketball. Jones especially can facilitate offense when it appears there is none to be had, which will be crucial in tight postseason contests. Kameron Woods, who averages 9.8 rebounds per game, can hold down the paint—a job that will get easier if Andrew Chrabascz gets in rhythm after recovering from a broken right hand. Butler has a similar profile to the 2010 team that broke through to the Final Four, riding a top-flight defense and a better-than-average offense to get there. By now, everyone sees the Bulldogs coming, but they have the makeup to make it in March.
The Case Against: The effectiveness of Chrabascz, who was the third-leading scorer before his injury, will be a question. He returned to play 31 and 33 minutes in the last two games of the regular season, but shot just 7-of-22 in those games. Getting big wins without his usual level of production will be problematic. Dunham is a legitimate threat from three-point range (41.5%) and guard Alex Barlow offers a decent second threat there at 38.9%, but the Bulldogs aren’t likely to break away from teams with explosive offense. That’s fine if the defense holds up but an issue if an opponent gets hot and a quick catch-up is necessary.
Meanwhile, Butler hits just 68.4% of its free throw attempts as a team—an issue for close contests in which it must protect a lead. And for every big win, Butler seemingly had a loss to match—it wnet just 6-7 against the RPI top 50 at the end of the regular season. It is a hit or miss team, it seems, against the peer competition it should see in the brackets.