Last season: 21-14, lost in second round of NCAA Tournament for the third time in four years.
Coach: LaVall Jordan.
Conference: Big East.
Who’s back: Guard Kamar Baldwin becomes top scoring option (15.7 points per game) for the first time in his college career and also excels on defense. Centers Nate Fowler (5.9 ppg, 3.1 rebounds) and Joey Brunk (1.8 rebounds per game) should see their playing time increase and could be the keys to helping Bulldogs maintain their traditionally strong rebounding edge. Point guard Paul Jorgensen (10.2 ppg), a part-time starter last season, could win back the starting job from Aaron Thompson (4.3 ppg, 3.4 assists). Shooting guard Sean McDermott (7.5 points) also returns and could be used in smaller lineups.
Who’s new: Sophomore forward Jordan Tucker becomes eligible in December and could give the Bulldogs an exciting new piece after transferring into the program from Duke. Markeese Hastings and Bryce Golden are the only freshmen on the roster, but newcomers don’t often play big roles on this roster.
The Skinny: Jordan loses his top scorer (Martin) and top two rebounders (Martin and Wideman) from last season’s team, but the Bulldogs have developed a penchant for finding replacement parts and appear ready to do so again in a still strong Big East. How far they ascend will depend largely on their backcourt play, led by Baldwin who was named to the conference’s all-tournament team.
Expectations: Butler has been installed by Las Vegas oddsmakers as a 120-1 longshot to win the NCAA Tournament. Their odds are the same as conference rivals Xavier and St. John’s and in-state foe Notre Dame. Villanova, at 10-1, is only Big East team ahead of the Bulldogs.