For the first time in five years, the Butler basketball program missed out on the NCAA Tournament. It was an uneven season for head coach LaVall Jordan and his squad. The Bulldogs could never play with much consistency in a Big East conference deep from top to bottom.
Butler Bulldogs 2019-20 Season Preview
Recapping the 2018-19 season
It was not a total loss for Butler though, as they made the NIT on the strength of a good RPI (72 per KenPom.com). The Bulldogs made an early exit though, as they lost to Nebraska in the first round.
From a personnel perspective, star guard Kamar Baldwin made the All-Big East Second Team behind 17 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.5 steals per game.
The most important piece is back, and that is without a doubt, Baldwin.
Simply put, Baldwin is one of the better guards in the conference. He can impact the game in so many facets. His return ensures Butler will be a major player in the conference standings.
Baldwin is not the only important piece back, as major players Jordan Tucker, Sean McDermott, Aaron Thompson, and Henry Baddley all return. All eared at least 16 minutes per game in Jordan’s rotation.
Thompson is a shifty point guard who gets others involved. Meanwhile, Tucker and McDermott are two sharpshooters who complement Baldwin perfectly. Baddley is a gritty player who plays with a lot of heart and can contribute when he is called upon.
One intriguing addition is Derrik Smits, a graduate transfer from Valparaiso.
As the son of former NBA star Rik Smits, you might suspect the younger Smits brings size to the table. At 7’1” and 240 pounds, Smits will be a load to handle for opposing Big East big men. In his last season with Valparaiso, Smits averaged 12.2 points and 5.7 rebounds per game, while shooting a healthy 59.4 percent from the field.
🐶🖊 Graduate Transfer Derrik Smits Joins Butler Program for the 2019-20 Season
— Butler Basketball (@ButlerMBB) May 6, 2019
Battle will surely be in the mix for major minutes, while 6’9” center John-Michael Mulloy will probably need some time to develop.
Also coming aboard is red-shirt freshman Markese Hastings, a 6’7” forward from Michigan. He too figures to be worked in slowly.
Milwaukee transfer Bryce Nze is another impact newcomer. He averaged 10.3 points and a team-high 8.5 rebounds per game in his last season with the Panthers. He’ll be a boon to the frontcourt.
There is a wide range of outcomes that could define Butler’s season.
The Big East is deep and it will test the Bulldogs. The Butler basketball program appears to be better on paper than it was last season, but so do most of the Big East teams.
Baldwin is a heck of a player, though, and he can carry this squad if need be. The backcourt is the strength of this team and the unit compares favorably to other conference foes.
The frontcourt is a question mark. Smits is a nice addition but is limited in his game. Athletic frontcourts could give Butler some trouble.
However, with good guard play and a core highlighted by veterans, Butler will make for a formidable foe all year.
The schedule will be an absolute grind, as the Bulldogs will face off against Minnesota, Wofford, Ole Miss, Florida, Baylor, and Purdue. The Butler basketball program will also play in the CBE Hall of Fame Classic. They play Missouri in the semi-finals and then play either Oklahoma or Stanford in the next round.
The schedule will harden them up before league plays begin. That much is certain. A good showing in the non-conference portion of the schedule will give them a leg up heading into Big East play.
Butler should once again contend for a post-season bid, but more than likely it will probably have to settle for another NIT bid. Expect a finish in the Big East anywhere between seventh and 10th place.