By Jon Rothstein
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1. THE BUTLER WAY
The biggest thing that stands out after watching one of Butler’s practices is the overall level of efficiency. The Bulldogs regularly get on the court in the wee hours of the morning and yet they still are crisp in each drill and rarely waste a second going over something that isn’t needed. Butler coach Brad Stevens is a stickler for details and it’s evident in the way he prepares his team on a daily basis. This program simply doesn’t miss the little things and the results are where it matters most — the win-loss column.
2. CLARKE’S CONDITION
Rotnei Clarke looks completely different than he did two seasons ago at Arkansas. Butler’s starting point guard has completely changed his body and added noticeable strength. Thanks to an intense diet and improved weight training regimen, Clarke looks more than ready to show off the new elements of his body and his game, which now features more off the dribble than it did when he played in the SEC. Known as a knock down shooter when he played for the Razorbacks, Clarke will be more of a complete guard this season who’s comfortable scoring in the paint and getting to the rim.
3. POINTING THE WAY
Butler small forward Roosevelt Jones looks like he could be the next Antonio Gates. The 6-4, 225 pound sophomore looks like a tight end but plays like a highly skilled veteran — and don’t be surprised if Stevens regularly uses Jones at point forward this season. A year ago, Stevens showed Jones clips of former NBA star Anthony Mason to better enhance his understanding of the position and it looks like this brute could be poised for a major year after making a strong impact as a freshman. With Jones, Khyle Marshall, and Andrew Smith, Butler should have one of the better front courts in the Atlantic 10.
4. SKILL AND BALANCE
Clarke is the likely candidate to be Butler’s leading scorer but the Bulldogs have a slew of candidates to fill the box score on a nightly basis. Between Clarke, Jones, Marshall, Smith, and senior guard Chase Stigall, Butler has a plethora of weapons — and they all play the game with an extremely high skill level. More often than not, Stevens will put five players on the floor all capable of facing up from the three-point line. This team can shoot, handle, and make good decisions from all places on the floor.
5. DUNHAM’S DAGGERS
Kellen Dunham has one of the more effortless three-point shots that I’ve seen this preseason. The 6-6 freshman made four-of-six attempts from deep in the Bulldogs exhibition game last weekend and figures to eventually challenge for a starting spot next to Clarke in the back court. While his physicality and defense still have a ways to go, Dunham is a lethal shooter that will appear in bold print on an opponent’s scouting report each and every time Butler plays a game.
The Bulldogs are in the group of six or seven teams that have a chance to win the Atlantic 10. Even though it’s Butler’s first year in the conference, Stevens has assembled a roster with a proven perimeter scorer in Clarke and a front court that has the depth and balance to match up with any team in the league. The key for this team will be getting another guard, likely either Stigall or Dunham to play Robin in the back court next to Clarke as Batman. If that happens, there’s no reason why Stevens won’t have a chance to have five players scoring in double figures on a regular basis.
What’s your prediction for Butler? Let us know in the comments below…