It may have become official on July 1st, but the 2013-14 version of the Butler Bulldogs couldn't be more ready to start their first season of play in the new Big East conference.
There are quite a bit of schools that have gone elsewhere until all of the dust really settles. Former Big East icons Louisville, UConn, Cincinnati and Rutgers have all moved to new American Athletic Conference. After 2013-14, Louisville heads to the ACC to help make it the new super conference in college basketball. Rutgers, along with Maryland, will both become a part of the Big Ten, to give it 14 members.
Butler, Xavier, and Creighton have all joined up with 7 of the original Big East members in Marquette, Georgetown, Villanova, St. John's, Providence, Seton Hall and DePaul to form the 10-team new Big East.
Playing in its third conference in three seasons, Butler feels like it has finally found a place where it can showcase itself on a national level. From the Horizon League two years ago and to its one-year stint with the Atlantic 10, the Bulldog traditions welcome joining the Big East conference and what it will do for Butler University as a whole.
Under 1st year head coach Brandon Miller, there will be quite a few changes from the 2012-13 team. The Miller Era has started and Brad Stevens is now the head coach of the Boston Celtics. It was tough to see Stevens make a quick exit for the NBA, but Butler has welcomed back former backcourt star Brandon Miller to take over the reigns and continue The Butler Way, just as Stevens built it up so well.
The Bulldogs officially began practice for the season on September 26 and despite being without one its top returning starters, Roosevelt Jones, depth will be an asset for Butler in the 2013-14 season.
Jones suffered a season-ending injury to his left wrist during the first of Butler's four-game Australian trip in early August. He will receive a medical redshirt and be able to continue as a Bulldog during the 2014-15 season.
Butler will have four weeks of regularly routines and practices before starting their two-game exhibition play. Nova Southeastern comes to Hinkle Fieldhouse on October 29 at 7 p.m. and DePauw visits the Bulldogs on Saturday, November 2 at 2 p.m. Without Jones in the starting lineup, numerous others will be counted on to contribute.
Two starters return from last season's 27-9 squad. Senior forward Khyle Marshall (Davie, FL/Flanagan) and junior point guard Alex Barlow (Springboro, OH/Archbishop Moeller) come back with plenty of experience. Sophomore Kellen Dunham (Pendleton, IN/Pendleton Heights), senior Erik Fromm (Bloomington, IN/South) and junior Kameron Woods (Louisville, KY/Eastern) should more than likely round out the starting lineup.
Juniors Andrew Smeathers (Bargersville, IN/Center Grove) and Jackson Aldridge (Sydney, Australia/Australia Institute of Sport) should be see a good amount of time off the bench in the rotation. 6'3 sophomore Devontae Morgan (Tampa, FL/Tampa Prep) should also be a spark off the Bulldog bench.
Butler has quite the freshman class for Coach Miller's first set of recruits. Yes, they were all originally contacted and recruited by Brad Stevens, but they stuck with their commitment to Miller and the Butler program, even after Stevens jaunted to the Celtics.
Elijah Brown (Los Angeles, CA/Mater Dei), Michael Volovic (Carmel, IN/Carmel), Rene Castro (Milton, MA/Worcester Academy) and Steven Bennett (New Castle, IN/New Castle Chrysler) will all four be battling to see action on the court this winter. 6'10 Nolan Berry (St. Louis, MO/De Smet) and 6'7 Andrew Chrabascz (Portsmouth, RI/Cushing Academy) are both very likely to see time in Butler's frontcourt carousel.
It's going to be quite a transition during Brandon Miller's first year at the helm of the Butler Bulldogs, but there's extreme potential to make a lot of noise and shock the college basketball world when they least expect it. Most publications have thrown Butler into finishing between 6th through 10th in their first season in the Big East. Two weeks remain until the Bulldogs start exhibition play.