Brad Stevens left for the Boston Celtics.
Roosevelt Jones, one of the team’s top returning players, went down with a season-ending wrist injury in the team’s very first pre-season game in Australia.
To top it all off, Brandon Miller (’03) was called upon to fill the void left by a legend and to lead the Bulldogs in their first season in the highly-regarded Big East Conference, without any prior head coaching experience.
Butler was doomed, right?
Wrong. Alright, I understand that it is only six games into the 2013-2014 season, but the Bulldogs have competed well against some tough opponents (Vanderbilt, Washington State, #5 Oklahoma State) and currently sit at 5-1 before their third-place tilt in the Old Spice Classic with the 4-2 LSU Tigers.
Prior to the season, Athletic Director, Barry Collier, and the players stressed the importance of hiring a “Butler guy” to take over the head coaching position after Coach Stevens left for Boston. Why? To preserve the Butler Way, and who was better for the job than former Butler point guard, Brandon Miller?
In his time with the Bulldogs, Miller was an integral component of putting Butler on the so-called “college basketball map.” In his first season (his sophomore season since he played at Southwest Missouri State as a freshman) with the Dawgs, he led them to their first NCAA tournament victory in almost 40 years. In his senior season, he led the team to its first Sweet 16 appearance since 1962 after upsetting #5 Mississippi State and #4 Louisville. For his career, he averaged 11.6 points and 3.1 assists per game for the Dawgs, but more impressively, he was a member of the conference’s All-Academic team each year. He knew the importance of the term “student-athlete” at Butler University. In short, he embraced the Butler Way–both on and off the court.
Humility, passion, unity, servanthood, and thankfulness are the five characteristics that make up the foundation of the Butler Way, and through six games, this is a perfect representation of this team. Coming into the season, the media talked more about who was not coming back for Butler this season than who was going to be here. They completely discredited the current roster and doubted the ability of a first-time head coach in the Big East.
Well, through six games, six players are averaging at least 5.5 points per game. From what I have seen so far, it appears that in any given game, a new player is capable of stepping up on offense–a staple of Butler teams over the years. Don’t get me wrong, though, the team does have some offensive superstars, Kellen Dunham (17.3 PPG)/Khyle Marshall (16.8 PPG), that will help shoulder a lot of the scoring load this season. Some of the freshmen, namely Andrew Chrabascz and Elijah Brown, will play key roles as well. By the end of the season, I wouldn’t be surprised if 10 guys played significant minutes each game.
Thus, it appears to be a typical Butler roster. Will this team set scoring records? Nope. Will they produce NBA lottery picks like Marcus Smart of Oklahoma State? Probably not. Will they win games? You bet they will. The players know their roles. When they signed on to play at Butler, they knew a “recipe for success” was already in place, and it was their job to follow the instructions. Their job to embrace the Butler Way like countless players had done before them.
Let’s take a closer look at the Oklahoma State game…
CBS Sports college basketball insider, Jon Rothstein, took notice of the Bulldogs performance against #5 Oklahoma State, and this is what he had to say:
This performance by Butler shows you can’t discount the Bulldogs in the Big East without Roosevelt Jones. Capable of beating anyone.
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) November 29, 2013
You’re right, Mr. Rothstein. you can’t discount the Dawgs. In the Big East preseason coaches’ poll, these Dawgs were ranked ninth. Ninth. Out of ten teams. Yet, with wins over Vanderbilt, and Washington State, and a heart-breaking, nail-biting loss to Oklahoma State, it looks like they might have slightly underestimated Butler. What a surprise, right?
I will be honest. Though it will be considered a “good loss” and one that the team can build on for the rest of the season, it was still especially tough. I have witnessed two NCAA Finals losses firsthand, but this one burned deep. Down by one, with two free throws and a little over eight seconds left, the Dawgs had a chance to, at the very least, tie the game with one possession left. Unfortunately, senior leader, Khyle Marshall, missed both shots and the team lost.
The team lost. Sure, Marshall had a golden opportunity to give the Dawgs a chance at an early-season signature win, but the team would not have even been playing in this game without his 30-point performance against Washington State in the game prior. Roosevelt Jones may not be able to contribute on the court this season, but his leadership from the bench and in the locker room cannot be overlooked. The following tweet is a perfect example of what to expect from Jones this season:
Win as a team. Lose as a team. On to the next one
— Roosevelt Jones (@rozayyjones21) November 29, 2013
Finally, former Butler point guard and current assistant coach of the Maine Red Claws (the D-League affiliate of the Boston Celtics), Ronald Nored, summed it all up perfectly in just four words:
I love Butler Basketball.
— Ronald Nored (@ronaldnored) November 29, 2013
In short, don’t discount the Dawgs this season.
Until next time…
- Butler’s upset bid vs. Oklahoma St. falls short (indystar.com)
- #5 Oklahoma State Edges Butler (butlersports.com)