October 19, 2010

Butler Tabbed Unanimous Favorite In Horizon League

INDIANAPOLIS, IND. -- Butler received all 48 first place votes and was picked as the unanimous favorite to win the 2010-11 Horizon League men’s basketball title in the annual preseason poll of league coaches, media and sports information directors.  It’s the second straight year that the Bulldogs have been tabbed as the league favorite and the third time in four seasons.

“It’s an honor to be recognized by your peers,” said Butler head coach Brad Stevens, who was named Horizon League Coach of the Year for the second consecutive season in 2009-10.  “But anyone familiar with our program knows that we don’t put a lot of stock in preseason polls.”

The league voters further selected Butler junior Shelvin Mack as the Preseason Player of the Year and named senior Matt Howard to join his teammate on the first team preseason All-League Team.  Mack and Howard both were first team All-League players a year ago, after helping the Bulldogs to the most storied season in school and league history.

“Shelvin and Matt have worked hard to be in the discussion with the best players in our league and the best players in the nation,” noted Butler’s coach.

Butler returns three starters and 11 letterwinners from last year’s squad, which compiled a school and league-record 33-5 season and reached the title game of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship.  The Bulldogs became the first team in Horizon League history to post an 18-0 league record, while winning a fourth consecutive league championship, and then captured the league tournament crown.  Butler had 26 regular season wins, matching the second-most in school history, and compiled the nation’s longest winning streak with 25 consecutive victories from Dec. 23, 2009, to April 3, 2010.

The Bulldogs, who fell by two points to Duke in the national championship game, wound up ranked No. 2 in the final ESPN/USA Today national poll, the highest ranking ever achieved by a team in the Horizon League.

Mack was Butler’s second-leading scorer last season with a 14.1 average.  He was named first tam on the NABC All-District 12 Team and was picked to the All-Tournament Teams at the Horizon League Championship, the NCAA West Regional and the NCAA Final Four.  Howard, the 2008-09 Horizon League Player of the Year and 2009-10 Preseason Player of the Year, finished as Butler’s second-leading rebounder (5.2) and third-leading scorer (11.6) last year.  He was selected as Most Valuable Player of the 2010 Horizon League Men’s Basketball Championship.

Butler also returns starting point-guard Ronald Nored, named Horizon League Co-Defensive Player of the Year last season, and seniors Zach Hahn and Shawn Vanzant, both of whom saw action in all 38 games last year.  Nored led the team in assists (136) and steals (67), while adding 6.0 points per game.  Hahn averaged 4.9 points and Vanzant added 2.8.

Joining Mack and Howard on the Preseason All-League First Team were Norris Cole of Cleveland State, Rahmon Fletcher of Green Bay and Brandon Wood of Valparaiso.  Named Second Team All-League were Vaughn Duggins of Wright State, Eli Holman of Detroit, Cory Johnson of Valparaiso, Chase Simon of Detroit and Rob Kreps of UIC.

Detroit edged Cleveland State by five points for second place in the poll, while Valparaiso was picked fourth.  Milwaukee was tabbed for fifth place, followed by 2009-10 league runner-up Wright State, Green Bay, Loyola, UIC and Youngstown State.   

The Bulldogs will get their first preseason test with an exhibition game at home against Florida Southern on Saturday, Oct. 30.  That game is scheduled for 2 p.m. (ET).  Butler’s regular season opener will be against Marian at 2 p.m., on Nov. 13 at Hinkle Fieldhouse.