It's winter break and for college students everywhere that means their semester report card is out. With non-conference play over and Big East play just around the corner, there's no better time to hand out our own report card. I've given the team and each player an overall grade based on their performance relative to role and expectations entering the season (which means these grades should not be used to compare one player to another or as an overall rating for player performance).
Overall Team Grade - A
Butler is 11-1 and ranked 13th in the nation entering Big East play. The only thing that prevented them from a perfect record and A+ grade was a poor showing in Terre Haute against an inferior Indiana State squad. It's frustrating that the Sycamores are the only reason the Bulldogs aren't 12-0, but overall it's hard to have much to complain about so far. This Bulldog team is much deeper and more versatile than they've been the past few years. The only area of concern heading into the Big East gauntlet is rebounding. The Bulldogs are giving up offensive rebounds at a higher rate than they are getting them, which hasn't happened over a full season since 2008.
Sean McDermott - A+
Raise your hand if you predicted 3 months ago that Sean McDermott would get to start a game his freshman season. Raise your hand if you expected him to start a game for Butler EVER. McDermott didn't have gaudy stats coming out of high school and wasn't even ranked in the top 300, so it's understandable why he was mostly an afterthought by everyone on this board. I don't know anyone who predicted McDermott would see regular minutes as a freshman (wait, yes I do), yet he's 7th on the 13th ranked team in the country in minutes played. Sean is a high energy player who brings intensity on both sides of the court and is a sniper from the 3-point line. He has a bright future for the Bulldogs.
Kamar Baldwin - A+
Another perfect grade from a freshman, but the circumstances are night and day here. Kamar Baldwin had plenty of local hype. More often than not the bar for incoming freshman gets set too high because people forget they are still freshman (see Brunk, Joey). Baldwin hasn't just lived up to the hype though, he's exceeded it. He hit a buzzer beater to defeat Northwestern in just his 2nd game in a Butler uniform. He leads the entire Big East in defensive box plus/minus and is 9th in the country in steal rate. The freshman sensation certainly still has moments that remind us he is still just a freshman, but we haven't seen a Butler player create an early impact like this since Gordon Hayward.
Andrew Chrabascz - A
Kelan Martin understandably gets all the national attention and I've emphasized a lot about how important Tyler Lewis is in running this Butler offense, but an argument could me made that Andrew Chrabascz is Butler's most valuable player. He's 2nd in points, rebounds, and assists per game (12.7/5/2.8) and leads the team in win shares. I don't know anywhere that tracks charges taken, but there is little doubt he would be at or near the top of a national leaderboard for that. It feels like every time the Bulldogs are in a big situation and need a bucket they get the ball in the hands of Chrabascz on the block and he finds a way to get something done. The senior is simply making senior plays this season.
Tyler Lewis - A
Coach Holtmann made some fans nervous when he declared in the offseason that this was Tyler Lewis' offense to run. Lewis started the year off well last season, but eventually lost his starting spot and saw only 13 total minutes in the NCAA tournament. There was no reason to be concerned. Lewis is averaging 5.4 assists per game, something no Bulldog has ever done, while only turning the ball over 1.3 times a game. He is also shooting 45% from 3-point range for the season, by far a career best. For the first time in a while Butler has a traditional point guard running the offense, and it has paid dividends.
Kelan Martin - A-
One of the big questions for Butler heading into this season was whether Kelan Martin could continue to score efficiently as his role increased after the departure of Jones and Dunham. So far he has exceeded expectations in that department. Martin's shooting percentages are up across the board despite taking a higher percentage of the team's shots. It may feel odd that Butler's superstar who is receiving recognition in the national player of the year race only has the 6th highest grade on the team, but there are a few glaring issues for Kelan right now. In Butler's 5 toughest games (Northwestern, Arizona, Utah, Cincinnati, Indiana) Martin is averaging 3.4 turnovers per game. He also had 4 turnovers last game against Vermont. His offensive rebounding has also dropped off nearly 40% and his defensive rebounding nearly 30% from last season. If Butler wants to win the Big East, Martin needs to get back to being a more complete player and not just an elite scorer.
Tyler Wideman - B+
There was some concern coming into the season that Tyler Wideman might see his numbers drop without Roosevelt Jones attracting so much attention in the paint. That hasn't been the case at all. Wideman has seen his offensive efficiency increase while seeing a slight uptick in shot volume. His offensive rebounding percentage has stayed the same while his defensive rebounding percentage has improved. He may be undersized in the post, but Wideman is that blue collar workhorse down low that every team wants.
Nate Fowler - B+
The largest jump in development typically comes between a player's freshman and sophomore season, and Fowler is a great example of this. He actually leads the team in player efficiency rating (PER) and boxscore plus/minus. Shooting 73% from the floor certainly helps those stats. He is also leading the team in overall rebounding rate, including grabbing almost 18% of Butler's missed shots while he is on the floor. That would rank him in the top 10 nationally if he had enough minutes to qualify. Fowler is still a work in progress, but it's clear he is going to have a significant role moving forward with his Butler career.
Avery Woodson - B
Woodson has been an excellent addition to the roster and has brought exactly what was expected of him. He's been a knock down shooter, shooting 41% from 3 while pretty much never turning the ball over. The more versatile production of Kamar Baldwin has pushed Woodson out of the starting lineup for the time being, but Woodson still has a major role to play. Tyler Lewis is most effective when surrounded by shooters, and this team has none better than Avery Woodson.
Joey Brunk - C+
Brunk entered the season as Butler's highest rated recruit in the 2016 class. Because of this, there was plenty of excitement and fans have no doubt wanted to see what he can do right away. But Brunk simply isn't ready yet. The game is still too fast for him, and with Wideman and Fowler playing well there is no reason for Holtmann to throw him to the wolves. This is typical progression for a near 7-footer, and I constantly have to remind people that Brunk is ahead of where Fowler was at this time last year. Brunk is going to be an outstanding basketball player, it's just not going to be this season.
Henry Baddley - C
Baddley has seen very little playing time as a freshman, but that isn't unexpected. Most of his minutes have come in blowouts or in situations where Holtmann is fully focused on defense. It's going to be hard for anyone to earn many minutes playing behind Kelan Martin, so there is no reason to be concerned about Baddley moving forward. The performances of Baldwin and McDermott tend to raise expectations, but it's ok for freshman to be freshman sometimes.
Kethan Savage - C-
A few weeks ago this grade would have been an F. Savage was expected to compete for a starting guard position but missed the first four games of the season and was awful once he did return. Finally, against Indiana, he started to show signs of his former self and gave the Bulldogs some great minutes with Lewis and Baldwin in foul trouble. He still is shooting only 30% from the floor, but at least there is hope that a healthy and productive Kethan Savage is just around the corner.