Butler isn’t very good this year. If you read our preview, and you should, you likely know that. You also likely know that if you’ve watched the Bulldogs try to play basketball this season. What you may be less aware of is that this isn’t a one year thing. Since Lavall Jordan took over, Butler is moving in the wrong direction.
The Bulldogs joined the Big East at the same time Xavier did back in 2013. Since then Butler has been to the tournament four times to Xavier’s five, made one Sweet 16 trip to Xavier’s two, and not ever advanced any farther than that. The Bulldogs are also riding a three year NCAA tournament drought. All in all, Xavier holds an noticeable edge, but the programs are reasonably similar.
Where the similarities end is the way the programs are going right now. Xavier Nation goes back and forth like a shifting sea on whether Travis Steele is the man to take the Musketeers back to the top level. Lavall Jordan has spent the last season and a half taking Butler beneath the surface of that sea.
In Jordan’s first year at Butler he took them to the tournament and lost in the second round to Purdue. No shame in that. Jordan, like all first year coaches, was coaching players that he had mostly not recruited and that were in the program before he got there. The next year Butler dropped 50 KenPom spots and missed the tournament. In the Covid shortened season Jordan was leading a team whose three best players were still holdovers from Chris Holtmann.
Last season, Jordan was on his own. Butler promptly dropped to 120th in the KenPom rankings. The Bulldogs never won more than two in a row, finished 10-15, and were so bad that Xavier’s loss to them was sufficient to doom the Musketeers at large chances. Butler somehow beat Villanova, but equally bafflingly lost to Southern Illinois. At no point were the Bulldogs ever in the NCAA tournament picture.
No matter, last season was a mess in which a lot of teams struggled. Jordan wasn’t going anywhere and certainly the team could get things turned around. Only they didn’t. Butler has the fourth worst defense in the Big East. That’s not great. Their offense, though, is tragically bad. At 180th in offensive efficiency they come in dead last in the conference and find themselves between Florida Gulf Coast and Seattle overall.
Butler struggled to get past IUPUI and somehow only beat Saginaw State by 11. In DI games the Bulldogs are 6-5 and have won exactly one KenPom top 100 game. That leaves Butler at 115th in the KenPom again this year. The last time that Butler had back to back seasons this bad, Todd Lickliter was at the helm and some guy named Brandon Crone was getting big minutes in conference games against Youngstown State.
Is this a full on tailspin for Butler? Unfortunately not. They aren’t going the right way, though, and they are getting rotation minutes from five seniors. Two underclassmen with efficiencies well south of 100 lead the team in scoring, the next non-senior on the list plays less than 20 minutes per game and scores 4.6. It’s not a team with an immediate future on the roster. Butler is moving again, but not in the right direction.