The Butler men's basketball team, coming off the most successful season in school and Horizon League history, has been picked to finish fifth in this year's league race, according to a preseason poll of league coaches, media and sports information directors. Cleveland State, runner-up in the league tournament last season, was the overwhelming favorite in this year's poll.
The Bulldogs lost five key seniors from last year's 30-4 squad, which won the Horizon League regular season and tournament titles. Butler, ranked nationally for 19 consecutive weeks, won the Great Alaska Shootout and the Wooden Tradition and posted a first round win in the NCAA Tournament for a second consecutive year. The team's 30 wins were a school- and league-record!
But graduation claimed Horizon League Player of the Year Mike Green, first team All-League guard A. J. Graves, league All-Defensive Team performer Drew Streicher, league three-point field goal leader Pete Campbell, and two-year starter Julian Betko from the 2007-08 Butler team.
Butler head coach Brad Stevens will enter his second season with just one returning starter, sophomore forward Matt Howard. A second team All-League pick and Horizon League Newcomer of the Year, Howard finished second on the team in rebounding and third in scoring last season. The Bulldogs have four other players who saw action in at least 20 games last year, and Stevens has added six talented newcomers.
Cleveland State returns two of the league's top performers, seniors J'Nathan Bullock and Cedric Jackson. The Vikings, 21-13 last year, received 40 of a possible 49 first place votes in the poll and compiled 478 total points. Wright State, coming off a 21-10 campaign, received three first place votes and was tabbed second in the poll with 412 points.
UIC, one of four teams that tied for fourth in the league last year, picked up two first place votes and finished third in the poll with 361 points, while Green Bay was picked fourth with 335 points. The Bulldogs had three first place votes and 326 total points, followed by Milwaukee (216), Valparaiso (207), Loyola (189), Detroit (98) and Youngstown State (73).
Butler will begin practice on Friday, Oct. 17. The Bulldogs will play exhibition games against Marian on Saturday, Nov. 1, and Oakland City on Saturday, Nov. 8. Both preseason games are slated for 7 p.m. at Hinkle Fieldhouse.