One year ago, The Butler Bulldogs basketball program was in a very unfamiliar place. A place where Butler had never been before. The Bulldogs had just come off its first losing season in more than a decade and to make matters worse, head coach Brandon Miller out of the blue , and without warning, left the team. The basketball program was in a state of shock and chaos. Butler, which had been to the Final Four just a few seasons ago, was now on the ropes in a change that no Bulldog fan was prepared for. The Butler community was in shock and dismay. Nobody, still to this day, has figured out why Coach Miller left the team. It is the biggest mystery in school history. The basketball program began to unravel. Several players transferred and the status of the upcoming season looked bleak.
Butler’s new man to right the ship was Coach Chris Holtmann. Holtmann was an assistant on Brandon Miller’s staff for the first and only season. Holtmann had come to Butler after being head coach at Gardner-Webb for three seasons. He was named Big South Conference coach of the year in 2013 and led Gardner Webb to the NCAA Tournament. Butler season was still up in the air with not much optimism. After being picked to finish 7th in the Big East standings, the Bulldogs went out, and under Holtmann, became the Butler Bulldogs of old once again. They did what Butler has been doing for the past 15 years. They won basketball games and made it to the NCAA Tournament. The faith was back and Butler had been revived by Coach Holtmann. Butler finished tied for 2nd in the Big East standings and won 23 games and made it to the round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament before losing a heartbreaker in overtime to Notre Dame. The loss stung that night, but Butler fans knew the Bulldogs were back and with several key starters returning for the next season, this team could have a special season in 2015-16.
Butler begins their 2015-16 season this Saturday at home against The Citadel. The Bulldogs starting lineup will feature their two main players, seniors Kellen Dunham and Roosevelt Jones. Both Jones and Dunham were named first team preseason all-conference players by the Big East coaches. Jones and Dunham enter their senior seasons already each having notched over 1,000 points in their Butler careers. Dunham was one of the Big East’s leading scorers last season with 16.5 points per game and Jones is one the Big East’s most versatile players, averaging 12.7 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game. Junior center Andrew Chrabascz showed flashes of his potential to be a dominant center last season for the Bulldogs even though his season was hampered by injuries. He still averaged 11.2 points and 3.6 rebounds per game. He will have to step up and be able to control the paint more and be more versatile on the glass with the departure of two time Big East rebounding champion Kameron Woods. Another Bulldog who graduated was point guard Alex Barlow. Barlow was the glue for the Bulldogs these past three seasons. Barlow had great defensive presence for the Bulldogs and was also a good leader. Butler’s new starting point guard will be N.C. State transfer Tyler Lewis. Lewis will be an offensive upgrade for Butler over Barlow. Lewis has two years of eligibility left after transferring to Butler. The Bulldogs will be relying on sophomore Tyler Wideman at power forward. Wideman was a key reserve for the Bulldogs last season off the bench and will now be thrust into the starting lineup. Wideman had the best shooting percentage for the Bulldogs last season off the bench, shooting 58.3 percent from the field and averaging 2.3 points per game. Those numbers should improve now that Wideman is in the starting lineup. Butler has a starting five that has experience and off the bench Butler has good depth. Off the bench the Bulldogs will be relying on transfer guard Jordan Gathers. Gathers comes to Butler after spending the past few seasons at St. Bonaventure. Gathers has good range from the floor. Kelan Martin comes off a good freshman campaign where he showed the ability to score inside and out for Butler off the bench. Martin was the leading scorer off the bench for the Bulldogs last season with 7.1 points per game. Austin Etherington enters his final season with the Bulldogs coming off the bench last season averaging only 0.9 points per game in limited minutes but has been shown to be a consistent three point shooter.
With a talented roster in place, Butler looks to make 2015-16 another great season and has the team that can compete for a Big East championship and make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. After coming so close to the Sweet 16 last season, Butler looks to make the jump this year back into the national spotlight once again come March. Coach Holtmann looks to carry the Bulldogs into another season and make their stamp in the Big East and show the country once again that Butler is back and is ready to compete against the best competition in the NCAA.