Butler head coach Chris Holtmann has the Bulldogs on the right trajectory after taking the team to two straight NCAA Tournaments. This has been achieved in spite of the fact that he was thrust into the position two years ago when Brandon Miller suddenly stepped down.
While Holtmann loses two program stalwarts — Kellen Dunham and Roosevelt Jones — he still has a roster that can contend for another tourney bid. Although Holtmann is working with a lot of moving parts, he should forge another winning campaign in Indianapolis.
Here are five burning questions facing Butler as it heads into the 2016-’17 season.
5. What will transfers Kethan Savage and Avery Woodson provide?
Not only is Butler losing Dunham and Jones, but the Bulldogs are also losing solid role players Austin Etherington and Jordan Gathers, who played at the guard or wing positions.
That’s where the additions of Savage (George Washington) and Woodson (Memphis) become vital. Although they are not world-beaters, they are nonetheless solid players.
Chris Holtmann could have two transfers start next season for Butler: Avery Woodson (Memphis) and Kethan Savage (GW). Interesting team.
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) April 18, 2016
Woodson, a grad transfer, averaged 9.6 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game with Memphis, while shooting 43 percent from three-point range. He will be asked to stretch the defense.
Savage is the more versatile player. He averaged 11.7 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game in his last season with the Colonials. Savage can do a little bit of everything, which will come in handy.
Both figure to get plenty of run and become integral role players for Holtmann.
4. Can Tyler Lewis put it all together at the point?
Lewis, who transferred from North Carolina State, didn’t exactly have a seamless transition to BU’s point guard spot last season
He battled inconsistency, shooting troubles and later a concussion in what was a forgettable season. Lewis averaged a pedestrian 5.9 points, but did average a respectable 2.8 assists per game in the 2015-’16 season. Still he disappeared on many occasions, especially later on in the season.
Lewis is capable of much more. With Jones and Gathers gone, he has to step up if the Bulldogs expect to run with the top dogs of the Big East.
3. Will Joey Brunk add an extra dimension?
We wrote about Brunk’s potential impact not all that long ago, but the long and short of it is that the four-star freshman center will likely play a big part in Butler’s success next year.
For the last few years, Butler has relied on either wiry-strong forwards (i.e., Kameron Woods) or finesse big men for production in the post. That will change with the arrival of Brunk, who is simply a beast under the basket.
Blessed with effective spin moves in the post and the ability to bang under the boards, expect Brunk to be the recipient of many entry passes. While he may struggle with consistency—as most freshmen are prone to do—Brunk will make his presence felt.
2. Can Andrew Chrabascz build off the momentum he established in last season’s NCAA Tournament?
Chrabascz is another senior looking to go out on a high note.
Unlike Brunk, Chrabascz (who averaged 10.7 points and 4.2 rebounds per game last season) is more of a face-up big man who works inside and out. He has always played his role to perfection, and he intends to build on his performance in last year’s NCAA Tournament.
Chrabascz averaged 19 points (on 13-21 shooting) in the Bulldogs’ two games against Texas Tech and Virginia. This could translate into a more confident Chrabascz next season.
With a true low-post threat (Brunk) beside him, expect Chrabascz to play with more self-assurance. He will allowed to play to his strengths.
Students moved in at Butler today. Which means this place will be packed on Saturday nights very soon. pic.twitter.com/XWPpsusOOq
— Butler Basketball (@ButlerMBB) August 21, 2016
1. Will the emergence of Kelan Martin be enough to overcome loss of Dunham and Jones?
With Dunham and Jones moving on, Martin will now become the on-court leader of the Bulldogs.
After an ordinary freshman season, Martin hit his stride last year. He was named to the All-Big East Second Team after averaging 15.7 points per game and leading the squad in rebounding (6.8 boards per game).
While it is blow to lose both Dunham and Jones, Martin is only going to get better as he assumes a larger role in Holtmann’s system. Expect Martin, a Swiss army knife on the court, to contend for All-Big East honors.
Martin is the least of Holtmann’s concerns.