Butler: New Conference, Same Style of PlayPosted by WCarey on December 6th, 2012
Walker Carey is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from Wednesday night’s Butler-IUPUI game in Indianapolis.
When Butler advanced to consecutive National Championship games in 2010 and 2011, the Bulldogs were known for their unselfish style of play that revolved around sharing the basketball and taking good shots.Last season Butler experienced a bit of a rebuilding phase, as the program had to replace several key contributors from the previous two national finalists. While the Bulldogs still finished a respectable 22-15 in 2011-12, it was a fairly significant departure from the illustrious campaigns of the previous two years.
The beginning of the 2012-13 season brought a few positive changes to the Butler program. First, Butler announced that it would be leaving the Horizon League to join the Atlantic 10 – a move that was highly praised due to the program’s substantial upgrade in competition. Second, Arkansas transfer Rotnei Clarke became eligible after sitting out the 2011-12 campaign following his departure from Fayetteville. During his three seasons at Arkansas, Clarke earned a reputation of being one of the best three-point shooters in the country, and rightfully so, as the guard converted on 274 three-point attempts during his time as a Razorback.
The addition of Clarke to an already experienced squad has allowed Butler to revert back to the style of play that allowed the Bulldogs so much success in 2009-10 and 2010-11. Senior center Andrew Smith, a holdover from both of those squads, is a stable force in the middle for the Bulldogs who provides leadership and hard-nosed play. Junior forward Khyle Marshall has continued his trend of improving every season, as he has upped his scoring average from 9.8 PPG in 2011-12 to 13.1 PPG this season. Sophomore swingman Roosevelt Jones has emerged as a scrappy, do-everything type of player who often fills the stat sheet. The only contributor on the Bulldogs without much experience is freshman sharpshooter Kellen Dunham who, while battling some consistency issues in the early season, has earned the reputation of having an impressive stroke from behind the three-point line.
So far this season, Butler has been somewhat inconsistent. When the Bulldogs traveled to Xavier on November 13 for their second game of the season, they were stymied by the Musketeers’ tough defense in struggling their way to a 62-47 defeat. Butler’s fortunes changed for the better though when the team traveled to Hawaii for the Maui Invitational. The Bulldogs scored a 72-71 win over Marquette in the quarterfinals on a 30-foot buzzer-beater from Clarke then they thoroughly controlled their semifinal match-up with North Carolina, which resulted in an 82-71 victory. In the championship game, it appeared, at times, that the Bulldogs had simply expended all their energy in their first two games, as they succumbed to Illinois, 78-61.
As the non-conference schedule wraps up, Butler will face tough competition from two Big Ten squads as it will travel to Northwestern this Saturday and then take on the top-ranked Indiana Hoosiers as part of the Crossroads Classic on December 15. Butler’s performance in those two games should tell us a lot more about this particular Bulldog squad before it heads into Atlantic 10 play where it will most likely face stiff competition on a nightly basis.