On Andrew Chrabascz and Butler’s Surprising Fall

Posted by Justin Kundrat on February 2nd, 2016

Back around Christmas, we talked about how drastically Butler’s offense had transformed this season, in large part due to faster pace and an improved individual efficiency for some key players. This offense was predicated on a balanced attack that featured reliable shooters and a handful of players who could score in the paint. As his team headed into Big East play, it appeared that Butler head coach Chris Holtmann had everything figured out. His Bulldogs had collected wins over Cincinnati and Purdue and were a weekly member of the Top 25. The offense that was propelling the Bulldogs was ranked among the nation’s top five in terms of points per game and averaging a whopping 123 points per 100 possessions. The most impressive part wasn’t the above-average rebounding rates for an undersized team or Butler’s remarkable ability to take care of the ball; what separated this year’s Bulldogs from past editions was its ability to score inside. Through its non-conference slate, Butler was shooting over 57 percent from two-point range, its best mark in 15 years. Curiously though, all of it – truly, all of it – has come undone in the last few weeks.

Andrew Chrabascz's shooting woes have plagued Butler in Big East play. (USA Today Sports)

Andrew Chrabascz’s shooting woes have plagued Butler in Big East play. (USA Today Sports)

Many are pointing fingers at Butler’s stark lack of depth across essentially every position on the roster, and while it’s true that the bench lacks the ability to consistently contribute, the starting lineup still provides plenty of firepower. Senior Kellen Dunham has been remarkably consistent this season, shedding the up-and-down shooting woes of his former self. Roosevelt Jones has shown no signs of slowing down when it comes to attacking the rim. Budding sophomore Kelan Martin has established himself as a do-it-all scorer and one of the team’s most efficient shooters. None of these three have suffered any slowdown in conference play and none are the reason why Butler has been unable to win close league games. Instead, the tragic downturn has coincided with both an injury to point guard Tyler Lewis, and more importantly, the disappearance of 6’7″ post man Andrew Chrabascz, a player who has struggled mightily with his shooting touch. The Bulldogs do not need 20 points per game out of Chrabascz, but any reasonable consistency from him will open up the floor. When he shoots the ball well, defenders are forced to respect his outside shooting as he rolls off screens, a nice addition to the help defense he normally draws in the low post. Butler excels when it uses Chrabascz to set ball screens to free Dunham or Jones and set up a two-on-one situation with Chrabascz either rolling to the rim or floating out for an open jump shot. His shooting ability forces post players to leave the paint in order to contest his shots, which is part of the reason Jones and Martin have had so many lanes on their drives to the basket.

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Andrew Smith Shows His Importance to Butler’s Long-Term Fortune

Posted by Chris Johnson on December 9th, 2012

Chris Johnson is an RTC correspondent. He was in Evanston for Butler’s 74-65 victory over Northwestern at Welsh-Ryan Arena Saturday night. You can follow him @ChrisDJohnsonn

The biggest weak spot in Butler’s season body of work entering tonight’s game at Northwestern was a road defeat at Xavier. It was the Bulldogs’ second game of the season, and their only true road test. It was hard to know what to make of that result, mostly because Xavier itself remained something of a mystery. But over the next four weeks, as Butler notched impressive victories over Marquette and North Carolina at the Maui Invitational, and handled three consecutive home tune-ups against Hanover, Ball State and IUPUI, the perception lingered – however faint – that Butler needed to prove itself in a hostile road environment before drawing a long-term prospectus about the Bulldogs’ chances of competing in the new and improved Atlantic 10.

The Bulldogs dominated the paint against Northwestern, with Smith leading the charge en route to his best performance of the season (Photo credit: AP Photo).

Those doubts all but evaporated at Welsh-Ryan Arena Saturday night. Butler showed the poise, savvy and steadfast discipline that’s come to define Brad Stevens’ recent wave of national success. More importantly, it flashed newfound strength on the low block, a physical disadvantage that’s limited Butler in recent seasons against athletically superior teams. Senior center Andrew Smith had scored the ball at an efficient rate through the early part of the season, posting a 114.0 offensive rating and a 55.1% effective field goal percentage, but his usage rate (19.6 percent of available possessions) ranked behind two teammates and his main priorities typically hinged on defense and rebounding. Smith proved Saturday night he’s more than capable of carrying the load offensively. “I thought he played his best game of the year,” Butler coach Brad Stevens said following the Bulldogs’ 74-65 victory in at Welsh-Ryan Arena. “We needed every bit of it.”

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