Bulldogs Are Favored In Horizon League Men’s Basketball Poll

Bulldogs Are Favored In Horizon League Men’s Basketball Poll

Butler was the surprise team of the Horizon League men’s basketball race a year ago.  Not so this season.  The Bulldogs have been picked to win the league men’s basketball title in 2009-10, according to the preseason poll of league coaches, media and sports information directors.

Butler, coming off a 26-6 campaign and a league regular season championship, received 455 points and 43 of 46 first-place votes in the annual poll to finish well ahead of predicted runner-up Wright State (398 points).  Cleveland State, last year’s Horizon League Tournament champ, finished third in the poll with 324 points, followed by Milwaukee (314), Green Bay (273), Detroit (209), Youngstown State (197), Valparaiso (137), UIC (126) and Loyola (97).  Cleveland State picked up two first place votes, while Wright State garnered the remaining top pick.

The Bulldogs, who have captured at least a share of three straight Horizon League regular season championships, were picked fifth in the preseason poll a year ago.

Butler head coach Brad Stevens has his entire squad back from last season.  Leading that group is junior forward Matt Howard, who was named Horizon League Player of the Year in 2008-09.  Howard led the Bulldogs in scoring (14.8 ppg) and rebounding (6.8 rpg) last year, while leading the league in field goal shooting.  Also returning are sophomores Gordon Hayward and Shelvin Mack, both members of the gold medal-winning USA U19 World Championship Team last summer.  Hayward (13.1 ppg) was named Horizon League Newcomer of the Year last season, while Mack (11.9 ppg) was picked to the league’s All-Newcomer Team.

Stevens’ other returning starters are senior forward Willie Veasley (8.9 ppg) and sophomore point-guard Ronald Nored (4.2 ppg).  Butler has seven other letterwinners back from last season’s squad, which posted a 15-3 mark in league play, and Stevens will have three newcomers - redshirt-freshmen Chase Stigall and Emerson Kampen and 6-11 freshman Andrew Smith - added to the mix.

Wright State and Cleveland State both posted 20-win seasons a year ago.  Wright State, despite playing without injured top guard Vaughn Duggins, finished with a 20-13 mark, while Cleveland State posted a 26-10 record and a victory over Wake Forest in the NCAA Tournament.  Duggins returns to Wright State this season, along with second team All-League guard Todd Brown.

Milwaukee, coming off a 17-14 season, returns second team All-League guard Tone Boyle and All-Newcomer James Eayrs, while Green Bay, 22-10 a year ago, has second team All-League guard Rahmon Fletcher returning.

Butler will open the regular season on Nov. 14 at home against Davidson.  The Bulldogs first Horizon League game will be on Dec. 5 against Valparaiso in Hinkle Fieldhouse.