Butler Opens 2007-08 Season At Ball State
STARTING BLOCKS: Butler will begin the 2007-08 season on the road for the third consecutive year when it visits nearby Ball State on Friday, Nov. 9. The non-league game between the two central Indiana rivals is slated for 7 p.m. (ET) at Ball State's Worthen Arena. The Bulldogs, coming off a school-record 29-7 campaign, will be playing their first regular season game under new head coach Brad Stevens, while Ball State is facing its first contest under new head coach Billy Taylor. Butler played Taylor's Lehigh team two years ago at the BCA Invitational and came away with a 66-41 victory. Friday's trip to Ball State will be the shortest season-opening trek for the Bulldogs in the past three years. Two years ago, Butler visited Wyoming for the season-opening BCA Invitational, and last year, the Bulldogs opened the season with a 40-point win at Tulane.
Butler's first four 2007-08 opponents feature a new head coach.
NEW LEADER: Brad Stevens, who was an assistant coach for some of Butler's top basketball teams, is beginning his first season as the Bulldogs' head coach. Stevens, a Butler assistant for six seasons, was named the Bulldogs' head coach last spring, when former coach Todd Lickliter left for a position at Iowa. During his tenure as an assistant, Stevens helped lead the Bulldogs to a 131-61 record and four postseason tournament appearances. He became the first Butler assistant coach to be on the staff of two NCAA Sweet 16 clubs.
Brad Stevens served as an assistant coach for teams that recorded the top three single season win totals in Butler basketball history (29-7 in 2006-07; 27-6 in 2002-03; 26-6 in 2001-02).
PRESEASON FINISH: Butler passed two preseason tests in a 48-hour period with victories over Saint Joseph's, 75-50, and Marian, 83-49, at Hinkle Fieldhouse last weekend. Both games featured a strong second-half performance by the Bulldogs. Butler out-scored Saint Joseph's, 40-20, in the second half of the first exhibition contest on Thursday, Nov. 1. Two days later, the Bulldogs out-scored Marian, 49-29, in the final 20 minutes. Senior A. J. Graves led the Bulldogs against Saint Joseph's with a game-high 19 points, while senior Pete Campbell topped Butler against Marian with a game-high 20 points.
LEAGUE FAVORITE: Butler was tabbed as the team to beat in the Horizon League this year in a preseason poll of league coaches, media and sports information directors. The Bulldogs received 42 of a possible 46 first place votes in the poll and finished well ahead of runner-up Wright State. Green Bay picked up two first place votes and was picked third followed by Milwaukee, Loyola, Valparaiso, Detroit, UIC, Cleveland State and Youngstown State. Loyola picked up the other two first place votes. A year ago, the Bulldogs were picked sixth in the same poll.
RECORD YEAR: The Bulldogs compiled the most successful season in Butler history a year ago, finishing with a school-record 29-7 mark and a trip to the NCAA Sweet 16. Along the way, Butler won the NIT Season Tip-Off with consecutive victories over Notre Dame, Indiana, Tennessee and Gonzaga, captured a share of the Horizon League regular season title and cracked the "Top 25" for just the third time in school history. Butler was nationally-ranked for a school and league record 16 consecutive weeks, including a "Top 10" ranking in early February. The Bulldogs recorded their second consecutive 20-win season and their ninth 20-win campaign in 11 years. Only nine schools in the NCAA Division I had more wins than Butler in 2006-07!
VETERAN CLUB: Butler boasts five seniors, including three starters from last year's successful squad. And the five seniors already boast 20 years of experience! Mike Green, Pete Campbell and Drew Streicher are all fifth-year seniors, while Julian Betko is a sixth-year senior! A. J. Graves is in his fourth year. Green and Betko each started all 36 games a year ago, while Graves started 34. Streicher played in all 36 games, while Campbell played in 35. Betko, who originally transferred to Butler from Clemson, was granted a sixth-year of eligibility by the NCAA.
BACKCOURT STRENGTH: Butler's backcourt of seniors A. J. Graves and Mike Green was rated as the 14th-best backcourt in the NCAA Division I this season by Luke Winn of SI.com. Graves led the Bulldogs in scoring last year with a 16.9 average, while Green topped the team in rebounds (6.0) and assists (4.0), while finishing second in scoring (13.9). Graves was a first team All-League pick last season, while Green, who was named Horizon League Newcomer of the Year, was a second-team All-League player.
ALL-AMERICA: Senior guard A. J. Graves was named to the 25-player Preseason Mid-Major All-America Team by CollegeInsider.com. Brandon Cotton of Horizon League rival Detroit also was named to the preseason squad. Graves was named to the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major All-America Team at the end of last season.
ROSTER ADDITION: Butler head coach Brad Stevens has added walk-on Alex Anglin to this year's roster. A 6-4 sophomore, Anglin was an all-area performer at Kokomo High School. He's one of three walk-ons on Butler's roster, joining junior Ben Slaton, who earned a spot in 2005-06, and sophomore Nick Rodgers, who earned a spot last year.
•The Bulldogs, who led the Horizon League in three-point field goals a year ago, hit 23 of 52 (.442) three-pointers in their two preseason exhibition games. Butler hit 14 of 27 (.519) attempts from the three-point arc against Marian and nine of 25 (.360) against Saint Joseph's.
•Senior Pete Campbell hit a team-best six of nine attempts from the three-point arc in Butler's victory over Marian. He connected on one of four attempts against Saint Joseph's.
•Butler had two players score in double-figures in both preseason exhibition games. Senior A. J. Graves, Butler's leading scorer a year ago, tallied a team-high 19 points against Saint Joseph's and then added 15 points against Marian. And freshman Matt Howard came off the bench with 12 points against Saint Joseph's and 13 against Marian.
•Senior guard Mike Green, who led the Bulldogs in rebounding a year ago, grabbed a team-high six rebounds against Saint Joseph's. Three different players - senior Drew Streicher, sophomore Willie Veasley and freshman Matt Howard - shared the team lead in rebounding against Marian with four apiece.
•Freshman Shawn Vanzant came off the bench with a team-high four assists against Marian. A. J. Graves topped the team in assists against Saint Joseph's with five, while teammate Mike Green added four.
•The Bulldogs have the best overall record of any Division I team in Indiana since 2001-02. Butler is 131-61 over that stretch, while Notre Dame stands second with a 121-67 record.
•Butler posted the most wins (29) of any Division I team in Indiana for the second consecutive season last year. Notre Dame was second with 24 victories.
•A. J. Graves enters the 2007-08 season in 14th place on Butler's all-time scoring list with 1,344 career points. He trails Rylan Hainje (1998-2002) in 13th place by 44 points.
•Butler senior Pete Campbell hails from Muncie and attended Yorktown High School, but he's never played a game in Ball State's Worthen Arena. Campbell attended IPFW before transferring to Butler in 2005.
•Butler assistant coach Matthew Graves
turns 33 on Friday, Nov. 9.