2013-14 Butler Bulldogs (11-9, 1-7; KenPom: 111; RPI: 105)
Butler is looking to start a three-game road trip by improving to 2-7 on the Big East season, while Seton Hall is eyeing a .500 league record (4-4) when the two teams meet at Prudential Center on Wednesday night.
The contest will be the first ever meeting between the two schools, with Butler migrating from the Horizon League over the summer. Former Bulldog guard and now head coach Brandon Miller coached Butler to an impressive 10-2 non-conference record that included an overtime loss to LSU and a two-point defeat to Oklahoma State on a neutral floor. In the Big East, however, the Bulldogs have come up just short repeatedly, going 1-3 in overtime, resulting in a Big East record that could just as easily be 4-3. Most recently, Butler lost by 17 at home to St. John's after getting out to an early lead at Hinkle Fieldhouse.
Brandon Miller uses a slightly undersized seven-man rotation and has started the same five players for all 20 games this season. Junior point guard Alex Barlow (5.9 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.4 apg) secures the rock well for Butler and boasts the 20th-best assist to turnover ratio in the country (67:23, 2.91). Barlow has dished 17 assists and has turned the ball over just twice over his past four games. Barlow is keen to push the ball in transition if he can, the passing guard lofted the ball over St. John's transition defense several times on Saturday.
Sophomore guard Kellen Dunham (18.1 ppg, 38% 3pt) leads the team in scoring and can hurt teams in a lot of different ways. He fights through screens hard and runs off the ball with a purpose, making Butler's top three-point shooter (53/140, 37.8%) hard to defend. Dunham, who will share time bringing the ball up the court with Alex Barlow, can also take defenders off of the dribble, drawing fouls in the process. Kevin Willard noted post-DePaul that he thinks Dunham is an NBA talent.
Starting at wing is 6-6 senior veteran Khyle Marshall (15.8 ppg, 5.2 rpg). The only player on Butler's roster to have played in the 2011 NCAA Championship Game (senior Erik Fromm didn't log any minutes in the tournament), Marshall plays like it. Khyle has attempted 242 field goals this season, and just 6 of them have come from behind the arc. His crafty mid-range game was put on display against St. John's when Marshall led Butler with a quiet 16 points.
The two starting forward positions are filled by 6-8 senior Erik Fromm (6.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg) and 6-9 junior Kameron Woods (8.9 ppg, 9.5 rpg). Though lengthy, Fromm (223 lbs.) nor Woods (200 lbs.) are overpowering in the paint. Both forwards had a lot of trouble with St. John's stable of post-men and were unable to establish any sort of position on offense. Come to think of it, Butler passed the ball down to a player in position in the paint probably less than five times against the Red Storm, if that. On defense, God`sgift Achiuwa, Orlando Sanchez, and JaKarr Sampson were able to out muscle and dominate the Bulldogs, combining for 32 points, all from within the arc. The St. John's guards were also successful in using their strength to drive to the hoop.
Despite measuring in at 6-9, Kameron Woods is capable of taking players off the dribble like a guard, but rebounds like a forward (16th best DR%, 26.8). He and Fromm are backed up by Andrew Chrabascz (4.8 ppg, 3.1 rpg), who has been efficient off the bench, especially in the Big East. A freshman, Chrabascz came off the bench to score eight points against St. John's. Per ButlerSports.com, "it was the fifth time in the past seven games that he's contributed at least eight points in a reserve role."
At guard, freshman Elijah Brown (6.4 ppg) sees most of the minutes off of the bench. Though inconsistent due to playing time, Brown has shown that he can score in decent quantities when needed by putting up 15, 19, and 10 points against Oklahoma State, Villanova, and Xavier, respectively.
As a team, Butler has not shot the ball particular well, sitting 254th, 281st, 207th, and 314th in the country in eFG%, 3pt%, 2pt%, and FT%. The Bulldogs rank 9th against Big East opponents in all of these categories except for 2pt% (7th). Butler's lone statistical bright spot on offense is their turnover percentage, which ranks 15th in the country and 2nd in the Big East, largely due to Alex Barlow. Brandon Miller's team plays at the 286th quickest tempo and are the "slowest" team in the Big East.
On defense, Butler is statistically a bit better against the national average, but still near the bottom of the Big East. Against conference opponents, the Bulldogs's defense ranks 9th in adjusted defensive efficiency, eFG%, OReb%, 2pt%, and block%. Butler does excel at guarding the perimeter, their 32.5 3pt% allowed is second-best in the league and of all points scored against Butler this season, just 22% have come from deep (303rd most in country).
Like DePaul, Seton Hall will need to start fast against Butler, but will also need to focus on getting the ball inside to Patrik Auda and Gene Teague. Sterling Gibbs and Fuquan Edwin should look to be aggressive off the dribble and in transition, attributes that Butler had trouble handling against St. John's. If Seton Hall gets caught in a slow-paced game and defaults to taking outside shots, Butler will take advantage.
It appears that Aussie junior Jackson Aldridge (8.6 mpg) has edged out former Seton Hall recruiting target Rene Castro for the lightly used back-up point guard position, though neither has played much recently. Castro hasn't even seen the court in four of Butler's last five games and injury likely isn't the reason.
Here is what Kevin Willard had to say post-DePaul about facing Butler:
"Butler's a very good basketball team. They're undersized which is going to cause us a little bit of trouble. They've got two really good guards, their power forward is like 6-4, they've been getting beat up a little bit on the backboards and just getting worn down, because they have a little bit of a lack of depth because of the injuries they have. But they've been battling, they shoot the ball great, they're well coached, Brandon [Miller] I think is doing a great job with the numbers he has, and they can really shoot the basketball. So we're going to have to come out and defend it a little bit, and we're going to have to rebound the basketball.
"It's going to be a good challenge, but we're at home. We gotta stay focused at home and come with a good attitude and come out right from the start like I thought we did tonight."
Notes: 1) Butler does not play anyone below 6-6 at their PF or SF positions. 2) The Bulldogs are a bad offensive rebounding team, but their defense against opponents' offensive rebounding (defensive OReb%) ranks 36th overall, but 9th against the Big East, mostly due to Kameron Woods. 3) Brandon Miller lost forward Roosevelt Jones for the season in August, Butler has no current injuries. 4) Butler's overall field goal percentage (43.8%) ranks 204th in the country, and their other KenPom statistics that involve shooting the basketball validate this percentage.
Seton Hall has named their student section The Blue Bearded Army, which will make its debut appearance on 'Whiteout Wednesday' against Butler.
KenPom says: No. 87 Seton Hall - 69, No. 111 Butler - 64
Projected Butler starters:
5-11 Jr., G - Alex Barlow
6-6 So., G - Kellen Dunham
6-6 Sr., G - Khyle Marshall
6-8 Sr., F - Erik Fromm
6-9 Jr., F - Kameron Woods
When: Wednesday, 9 p.m. local time
TV: FOX Sports 1
Radio: 570 AM