2016-2017 Season Review
For the 11th time in 12 seasons, the Butler Bulldogs won 20+ games, finishing with a 25-9 record. Chris Holtmann’s crew went 12-6 in the Big East, finishing second behind Villanova. The Bulldogs were a top 25 team from late November on, peaking as high as #11. The regular season saw them pick up big time wins over Northwestern, Vanderbilt, Arizona, Cincinnati, Indiana, Villanova twice, and Xavier twice. They earned a four seed in the NCAA Tournament, where they defeated #13 Winthrop and #12 Middle Tennessee to advance to the Sweet 16. They feel to eventual national champion North Carolina in the Sweet 16. Chris Holtmann is no longer at Butler, as he took the head job Ohio State in June, but the Bulldogs will look for more of the same this season with new head coach LaVall Jordan.
Besides some losses on the court, Butler lost their head coach in June when Chris Holtmann took the Ohio State job. In three seasons under Holtmann, the Bulldogs went 70-31 overall and 34-20 in the Big East. They made the round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament twice and the Sweet 16 once. He was the Big East Coach of the Year last season. On the court, Andrew Chrabascz, a forward who started all 34 games for Butler, is gone after graduating. Chrabascz was second on the team in scoring and assists with 11.4 PPG and 3.1 APG, as well as third in rebounds with 4.6 per game. He played in a team high 32.7 MPG. Guard Avery Woodson is also gone after graduating. Woodson started in 21 games, averaged 8.9 PPG and hit a team high 75 threes at a 42.1% clip. Kethan Savage graduated after the guard started in 11 games and averaged 8.0 PPG in his senior season. Also lost to graduation was guard Tyler Lewis. Lewis started in 24 games for the Bulldogs and averaged 6.6 PPG and a team high 4.0 APG.
Leading scorer and rebounder Kelan Martin is back for Butler. The 6’7 senior put up 16.0 PPG and 5.8 RPG last season, as well as hitting 64 threes. Martin has been a second team All Big East selection the past two seasons. He has the tools to have a player of the year caliber season this year. 6’0 sophomore guard Kamar Baldwin is back after starting 24 games last season. He averaged 10.1/3.7/1.5, in addition to picking off a team best 1.7 steals per game. Tyler Wideman, a 6’8 senior forward, started 33 games last season, averaging 7.2 PPG and 5.0 RPG, which was second best on the team. Wideman shot 61.5% from the field. 6’10 junior Nate Fowler played just 11.9 MPG last season. His role should expand this year after scoring 5.3 PPG, grabbing 2.1 RPG and shooting 66.7% from the field. Joey Brunk, a 6’11 sophomore, played in 7 of the first 10 games of the season, but missed the rest of the season due to his father battling cancer (His father sadly lost his battle in April). Butler is hoping they can get last season to count as a redshirt season for Brunk. In the seven games he appeared in, Brunk scored 3.1 PPG. Sean McDermott and Henry Baddley are two sophomore guards that played in 30 and 24 games respectively last season.
With Holtmann leaving for Ohio State, Butler alumni LaVall Jordan was named the new head coach of the Bulldogs. Jordan played at Butler from 1997-2001, was an assistant coach there from 2003-2007, assistant at Iowa from 2007-2010 and assistant at Michigan from 2010-2016. He got his first head coaching job at Milwaukee and in his lone season there in 2016-2017, they went 11-24, a decline of nine wins from the year before, although they did make the Horizon League title game as a #10 seed. It seems a little odd that Butler would hire a guy that is coming off an 11-24 season in his first year as a head coach, but clearly the Butler connection was a big part of it. As for recruits, Butler brings in the #61 ranked recruiting class in the nation and #7 in the Big East. Christian David is a 6’5 guard that is a 3 star recruit according to 247Sports. David is an excellent shot maker both off the catch and off the bounce. Aaron Thompson is a 6’3 3 star guard that originally intended to go to Pitt, but backed out and chose Butler over VCU. Cooper Neese is a 6’4 3 star guard that is an elite shooter and Indiana high school basketball legend. He finished 10th on the all-time scoring list for the high school basketball crazed state of Indiana. Jerald Butler is also a 6’4 3 star G/F that is very athletic. Campbell Donovan rounds out the recruiting class as a preferred walk-on whose father played at Butler. Paul Jorgensen will also be eligible this season after sitting out last season after transferring from George Washington. The 6’2 junior averaged 4.9 PPG and 2.1 APG as a sophomore at GW.
Butler has become one of the most consistent programs in the country and LaVall Jordan will look to keep that going as the new man in charge. He has one of the best duos in the Big East in Martin and Baldwin this season. The Bulldogs will need to fill the void the loss of Andrew Chrabascz left in the front court, both as a great player and a great leader. This feels like a borderline top 25 team coming into the season, but don’t be surprised if they become a team that’s in the rankings week in and week out.