Know Your Non-conference Opponent: Butler

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Xavier and Butler will be contesting their first game as Atlantic Ten opponents in March, but this year's schedule allows for one last non-conference tilt. If you haven't been keeping up with the Bulldogs over the off-season, we've got everything you need to get up to speed right here.

If you like Xavier right now, you don't like Butler. I don't know any Butler fans, but I'm assuming if you like the Bulldogs, you don't like Xavier. You may recall a little kerfuffle in December of 2009 involving a malfunctioning clock, a questionable game-ending decision, and Coach Mack's decorous protests. If you need your memory refreshed, check here. I'm not sure the programs bear any ill will toward one another, but there's no love lost between the fan bases.

Last year was rough for Butler. They followed back-to-back trips to the national final with a third-round exit in the CBI. Down seasons are not entirely unexpected for mid-major programs - especially ones that shed as much talent as Butler did over the past two years - and the Bulldogs look to be retooling for another serious run at the NCAA tournament this season.

When: 4:00pm on Tuesday 11/13/12
Where: Cintas Center, Cincinnati, OH
TV: ESPN

Coach/style:
Brad Stevens is not only the face of the Butler program but also one of the most recognizable and well-respected young coaches anywhere in the nation. His current contract with Butler runs through the 2021-2022 season, so he figures to be a fixture at the school for the next decade, pending the usual caveats of such a volatile profession. Stevens' teams play a very low-tempo pace; last year's got up to a scalding 65 possessions per game, which was highest in Stevens' tenure but only 213th quickest in the nation.

Despite - or maybe due to - the higher pace, Butler struggled on offense last year. Stevens' teams generally shoot often and well from outside, though they did neither last season. On the other end, the Bulldogs have controlled the glass (top 40 nationally in opponents' OR% each of the last four years) and the perimeter (opponents have never hit even a third of their 3PA over the course of a season) while generally being just above average at forcing turnovers.

Departures:
Volume-shooting guard Crishawn Hopkins has been dismissed from the team, taking his 9.1/2.4/1.5 on .369/.278/.787 shooting line with him. More importantly, defensive menace Ronald Nored has run out of eligibility. While his 7.8 PPG on .360/.328/.705 shooting probably won't be difficult to replace, he was the team's best on-ball defender, their leader in assists, and their fourth-leading rebounder despite standing 6'0". When coaches talk about maximizing the return on your talent, they have guys like Nored in mind. Every other player to get significant minutes for Butler has returned.

Returnees:
Six-foot-eleven center Andrew Smith led the team in scoring with a 10.9/5.2/0.6 line on .525/.352/.643 shooting line. The rising senior has the ability to score inside and out and figures to be a big part of the Butler attack again this year. Forward Khyle Marshall stands 6'7" and put up 9.8/4.3/0.4 last year and is an excellent offensive rebounder. That description also fits rising sophomores Roosevelt Jones (7.8/6.0/1.6) and Kameron Woods (4.2/4.8/0.6) despite the fact that Jones is 6'4", 200 lbs and Woods is 6'9", 185. Chase Stigall's .298/.284/.609 and Erik Fromm's 18-53 from behind the arc round out the important returning players for Butler.

Incoming players:
The most important new player on the Butler roster is rising senior Rotnei Clarke, an Arkansas transfer. The 6'0" guard posted 15.2/3.0/1.6 as a junior for the Razorbacks two years ago and hit 42% of his 653 three-point attempts in his first three years of school. Incoming freshmen include 6'5" ESPN100 shooting guard Kellen Dunham, who has a great shot off the catch or dribble but is hampered by less-than-stellar athletic ability. Basically, he's what you think of when you think of an Indiana high school basketball player. Combo guard DeVontae Morgan is an excellent passer in the open court but struggles with his shooting stroke. Chris Harrison-Docks rounds out the class as a "ball-dominant" guard who has decent range and a high motor.

Outlook:
To the positive mind, Butler is where Xavier will be next year. Butler lost a lot of talent of the last two season but is now reloaded and looks ready to continue on as one of the marquee mid-major programs in the nation. The loss of Hopkins may not hurt as bad as some would anticipate, and Rotnei Clarke figures to open things up for Smith in the middle. Jones and Woods add athletic versatility at the forward positions. If things break right for the Bulldogs in their first year in the A-10, the sky is the limit for this squad.

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