In this day and age of one-and-dones, a team led by extremely-talented seniors is rare to find these days— especially at a high-major level. However, Butler has a core of seniors that can make them a dark horse candidate to win the Big East and possibly make the Final Four.
After struggling in their first season in the Big East and having their coach (Brandon Miller) depart the program before last year started, Bulldogs’ coach Chris Holtmann did a great job re-energizing Butler and keeping them focused en route to a successful season (23-11, 12-6 in the Big East). Now his squad will enter the 2015-16 season amid high expectations and he couldn’t ask for a better bunch of seniors to help him potentially seek the promised land.
Of course, Butler will be led by the awesome duo of Kellen Dunham and Roosevelt Jones, who have done wonderful things as they approach their senior seasons. Both earned all-Big East honors last season, as Dunham was named to the all-Big East first team, while Jones was named to the second team.
There is probably no better one-two punch in the Big East better than Dunham and Jones. They are both skilled, intelligent and savvy basketball players. While they have a lot in common, the way they play the game couldn’t be more opposite.
— Paul Biancardi (@PaulBiancardi) October 9, 2015
Dunham is a smooth operator and one of the best shooters in the country. Meanwhile Jones is as rugged as it gets, as he is like a proverbial bull in a China shop.
Dunham is coming off a season in which he averaged 16.5 points, while shooting .429 percent from the floor, .850 percent from the free-throw line and .410 percent from the three-point line. As I previously mentioned, Dunham is one of the best shooters in the country. He has in-the-gym range, and can be as cold-blooded a shooter as there is in the country. When you need a clutch shot, they don’t get much more reliable than Dunham.
With this his last hurrah, Dunham will be amped to lead his Bulldogs’ into March glory.
Meanwhile, Jones is a just a pure joy to watch. He is as physical a guard you will see in the country. I have said before, he is unorthodox in delivery but effective in results. Jones is coming off a season in which he averaged 12.7 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game.
Jones loves driving the hoop, and although he is not a gifted shooter (putting it very mildly), Jones just knows how to put the ball in the basket. What sets him apart is his tenacity and grit. After all, even though he is just 6’4”, he is the Butler’s leading returning rebounder.
Jones packs a lot of punch in his frame and is the definition of a grinder.
Butler’s leadership is not just about just Dunham and Jones, either.
Holtmann also rosters a solid role player in senior Austin Etherington. Although last year was his first season with the Bulldogs, he is solid contributor across the board. Etherington is coming off a season in which he averaged 2.3 points and 2.1 rebounds in 12.3 minutes per game. The former Indiana Hoosier is nice asset to have off the bench.
Also, don’t forget Butler is welcoming in a solid grad transfer in Jordan Gathers from St. Bonaventure. In his last season with the Bonnies, he averaged 8.2 points, 2.2 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game. Gathers sat out all of last season, though, after undergoing hip surgery last June.
He should be raring to go, while giving Holtmann yet another talented, veteran guard (remember the Bulldogs also add N.C. State transfer Tyler Lewis) to lean on. So, with all that experienced guard play, don’t expect this team to beat themselves.
Butler has not gotten out of the Round of 32 since their epic run to back-to-back NCAA Championships in 2010 and 2011. The Bulldogs ended last season in heart-breaking fashion, as they lost to in-state rivals Notre Dame in overtime in the Round of 32 of the NCAA Tournament.
So they will be out to complete unfinished business this year, as there will be clear and present motivation.
— IndyStar Sports (@IndyStarSports) June 2, 2015
Not a lot of people are expecting great things from Butler this year. And as Gregg Doyel of the Indianapolis Star succinctly points out, that’s when the Bulldogs bite you and demand your attention.
When you combine the basketball skill and acumen with the experience it possess, it don’t get much better than the senior corps that Holtmann and Butler is working with.