To get a little more insight on the Razorback’s NCAA Tournament opener, we asked Robert O’Neill, a co-managing editor of Big East Coast Bias, a few questions about the Bulldogs. As always you can check out there work at the link above and follow Robert (@RobertONeill31) or BECB (@becb_sbn) on twitter.
1. For teams who play against Arkansas, it’s always about controlling the pace of the game. Has Butler been the kind of team that’s successful at playing at their pace or is there a worry that Arkansas can speed things up more than they want?
Robert - This has been something Butler has struggled with at times in their first year under new head coach LaVall Jordan. In nonconference play, Butler was still carving out their style and had trouble matching other teams, but as Big East play transpired, it was something Butler improved upon. Arkansas will certainly be a tough test, though. I think the Razorbacks will definitely look to push the tempo.
2. It looks like Kelan Martin can score just about anyway he wants (44% FG’s, 36% 3PT’s, and 83% FT’s) what does his game look like and where does he look to score most?
Robert - You said it best. Martin can score from pretty much anywhere on the floor, but thrives in the mid-range, which is a bit unheard of these days. 30% of Martin’s shots were 2-point jumpers, and he connected on 40% of them. Thanks to his size, he’s also able to take it inside and draw fouls or score at the rim, and he can hit threes. Plus, once he gets heated up, he can score in a hurry. He had 30+ points four different times this year.
3. Outside of Martin, what does the Bulldogs’ offense look like? Who could be a guy that can sneak up and have a big game?
Robert - Sophomore guard Kamar Baldwin is the other piece to Butler’s offense. Baldwin averages 15.5 points per game and also excels at getting to the rim. He doesn’t shoot threes as much as a prototypical guard, but he’ll be sure to get his buckets. Butler’s threes primarily come from Sean McDermott. He went 43-103 (.417) from long range this year, and had 2+ threes in 11 of the 29 games in which he played.
4. Butler has gone just 3-6 in their last 9 games, but it’s been against some pretty stout competition. Is there any worry that the team isn’t playing their best ball at the most important time, or has it just been a case of coming up on the wrong end of some tough games?
Robert - I think a lot of it is being on the wrong end of tough games. Not to make excuses for the Bulldogs, but three of those six losses were to #1 seeds Villanova or Xavier. One was in double overtime to St. John’s. One was by four to Georgetown. They certainly weren’t getting blown out. It’s not irrelevant, but I wouldn’t put too much stock into it.
5. How much do you expect Butler’s bench to contribute? Looking at the minutes, the Bulldogs’ rotation only goes about eight deep. Does foul trouble or fatigue ever become an issue?
Robert - That’s probably the biggest difference in Jordan’s coaching style compared to Chris Holtmann’s philosophy the past three years. Jordan hasn’t quite established go-to guys off the bench. For example, if Martin or Baldwin get in foul trouble, the Bulldogs will likely turn to an inexperienced player like Henry Baddley, Christian David, or Aaron Thompson. Those three players combined for 9.7 PPG this year, while Martin and Baldwin combined for 35. So, yeah, there’s quite a drop off. The other side of the coin though is the fact that neither Martin nor Baldwin get in foul trouble or hit the bench very often.
6. And finally, who do you think wins and why?
Robert - Well, if you picked Arkansas, I have to pick Butler. I also believe either of these teams can give Purdue a run for their money in Sunday’s clash, so I’m very interested in that one regardless of the winner here.