Exhibitions aren't usually like this. Lincoln Memorial is an elite Division II school, but most of the Hinkle crowd certainly wasn't expecting to be watching a dog fight in Butler's final tune up before their regular season opener Friday night against Kennesaw State. The Bulldogs prevailed though, topping the Railsplitters 86-79. Kelan Martin led the Bulldogs with 19 points while Baldwin added 17. Wideman (10) and Fowler (11) were each in double figures as well.
1) Butler's Rotation Appears Clear...For Now
The rotation to start the season looks like it might be set. Coach Jordan primarily played 8 guys, starting Jorgensen, Baldwin, McDermott, Martin, and Wideman with Thompson, Fowler, and Baddley seeing major minutes off the bench. Joey Brunk and Christian David saw spot minutes, and have enough potential they may challenge for more minutes down the road, but don't expect to see a lot of them on a regular basis early.
The rotation probably won't change soon, but the starting lineup might. Freshman Aaron Thompson looks ready out of the gate to contribute on both ends of the floor. If Jorgensen struggles at all I think it will be an easy decision for Jordan to go to Thompson for more minutes. Thompson was viewed as an elite defender out of high school, but he looked much more than that tonight.
2) Butler Is Just Fine At The Wing
There is certainly some concern heading into the season about the "3" position, and understandably so. With Kelan Martin playing the "4", sophomores Sean McDermott and Henry Baddley are the primary options. Neither have a ton of experience at the Big East level nor were high ranked recruits out of high school. Neither of these exhibitions were against Big East level competition, but both players looked up to the challenge. McDermott knocked in a trio of three-pointers, grabbed five boards, and drew a couple of charges. He's going to be a fan favorite for the next 3 years. Baddley flashed his ability to score on cuts to the rim, provided solid defense, and picked up four rebounds himself. If that forward position is Butler's biggest problem it's going to be a fun year.
3) Can Anyone Besides Martin Get To The Line?
Martin unquestionably has a strong ability to get to the free throw line. He got there 11 times tonight, knocking down all 11 tries. Will anyone else be able to get there consistently? Baldwin figures to be Butler's second scoring option, but only spot up shooter Avery Woodson had a lower free throw rate last season. Baldwin tends to use his quickness to avoid contact, which helps him get his shot off but doesn't get him many easy points from the charity stripe. Baldwin was 5-6 there tonight, but some of that came at the end when LMU was intentionally fouling. Nobody else on the roster made a free throw today. How is Butler going to find easy points when their shots aren't dropping this year?
4) Coach Jordan Has Versatile Weapons
Butler may not go particularly deep, but that doesn't mean LaVall Jordan doesn't have versatility on the roster. Butler has a quality mix of offensive and defensive players that can pair together in various ways. They can play a guard heavy lineup with Kelan at the power forward position or go big with Kelan at the small forward and two centers on the floor. Jorgensen and Fowler can provide offensive sparks while Thompson and Wideman can help make up an elite defense. We will find out this season how crafty Coach Jordan can be as a head coach.
The Bulldogs are back in action Friday night against Kennesaw State at 7 pm at Hinkle Fiedhouse. Stay tuned to ButlerHoops.com for full coverage, including our preseason predictions next week.