Updated: Aug 8
Butler’s non-conference schedule was officially released yesterday, so let’s dig into it.
No idea why they added the "@" symbol and wrote "at" but I kinda like it.
Some of my preliminary thoughts before we dig in:
The first three games are cupcakes. EMU loses arguably their two best players, Emoni Bates and Noah Farrakhan, from a team that went 8-23 last year. Their roster is highlighted by their second leading scorer from a season ago Tyson Acuff, Georgetown transfer Jallin Billingsley, Providence transfer Legend Geeter and fellow member of the All-Name Team Orlando Lovejoy.
(Side Note: Farrakhan visited Seton Hall about a month ago and that seemed to be exactly where he was gonna go, but his recruitment has just been silent. Hasn’t said a thing since he entered the portal.)
Southeast Missouri State is next, and this team made the tournament a season ago. They did lose in the 16-seed play-in game, but their run in the OVC Tournament was pretty fun. They lose their top three scorers from a season ago, but they do have Georgetown transfer Kobe Clark on their team, who was their leading rebounder a season ago.
Next up, former Butler Bulldog DJ Hughes looks to take vengeance on Butler, as his ETSU Buccaneers enter Hinkle Fieldhouse. They lose their top two scorers from a season ago, from a team that was 12-20 last year. All of these three teams project around that 250-300 range, for what it’s worth, more details on that at the very end.
Then, the Bulldogs take a massive leap in competition, as they head to Lansing to take on Michigan State. This Michigan State team is going to be really, really, really good. They’re a top-five preseason team by most accounts, with John Fanta having them the highest at #3. This team made the Sweet 16 a season ago and returns five of their six leading scorers (Butler transfer Pierre Brooks was their seventh leading scorer).
If that wasn’t enough, they have the fifth-ranked recruiting class according to 247, headlined by five-star Indianapolis native Xavier Booker and highly-touted four-star Coen Carr. This game will see how close Butler is to the nationally elite, and it’s taking place in their house. Even staying competitive in this game could show you that this Bulldog club is here to play, this was a really tough draw.
This feels so forced and unnatural, especially because this was hours after McCasland's North Texas won the NIT
After that is a game against Texas Tech in the Big East/Big 12 battle. This is Grant McCasland’s first year at Texas Tech, coming off of an incredibly successful tenure at North Texas, including a C-USA Conference Tournament Title, a win in the NCAA Tournament over Purdue and an NIT title last season. McCasland’s teams always play excellent defense and play at a pretty slow pace, and I’d expect that to be the same at Texas Tech.
This roster had to be completely rehauled in the portal, much like Butler’s. This team is going to expect a lot out of sophomore Pop Isaacs, he showed real potential as his freshman season concluded. Would expect they’re looking for big production out of their three grad transfers Joe Toussaint, Devan Cambridge and Warren Washington as well. This game feels like a very good barometer test of the Bulldog’s rebuild, two teams both rehauled this season facing off in Early December.
Next up is Buffalo, another team that’s rebuilding in the transfer portal. Former Villanova assistant George Halcovage was hired to take over a Bulls squad that had their first under .500 season since 2012-13 last year. Don't know too much about their team, I can't lie. Though, Anquan Boldin Jr, the son of ex-NFL receiver Anquan Boldin, is on this roster.
The Cal Golden Bears are the team that travels to Hinkle next. This is the second leg of a home and home, which I really didn’t understand. Butler beat them by 30 a season ago, and Cal has been one of the worst programs in all of D1 the last few years. But, after they hired Mark Madsen (yes, that Mark Madsen, 2x NBA Champion and Shaq's backup), I think that’s going to change this year.
Wow! What an excellent clip, that goes much more in-depth than this article will. Seems like people should watch that clip and follow that podcast's account! No, this isn't shameless self-promotion, what are you talking about?
This team should be really solid next year. This roster, assuming everyone gets ruled eligible, is good enough to potentially make the NCAA Tournament. This Cal team won’t be a joke, they’re like actually good. This game should be much more interesting than last year, this team can play.
And then a game against D2’s Saginaw Valley State. Why?
The ESPN Events Invitational Bracket was just released, some thoughts below:
Man, FAU was a rough, rough draw. They're likely the best team in this tournament. They return just about everyone from a team that made the Final Four, only losing one graduating senior. That's a preseason Top-15 team worthy of the hype they're getting.
I could argue A&M is the second-best team in this field too, if not the best. Albeit with an easy conference schedule, A&M went 15-3 in the SEC last season, and returns seven of their top eight scorers. They bring in a couple of decent transfers too, they're a team everyone is sleeping on this upcoming season.
Lastly, Penn State is a team I like more than most. Mike Rhoades is a very solid basketball coach, and Ace Baldwin is one of the best 15-20 guys who entered the portal. Their roster was completely overhauled, but they've got a solid coach and a legit lead option, which leads me to trust them. BartTorvik has them as the 146-best team in the country next season, and I strongly disagree with that.
If Butler can shock the world and beat FAU, that's a win that will be on your resume all throughout next season. However, if you lose two tough games, you're going to need to look very good in conference play. This tournament is important, and this draw was an incredibly tough one.
Bart Torvik Preseason Rankings of all Opponents (subject to change, of course):
Butler: 100 (for context)
Eastern Michigan: 294
Southeast Missouri State: 310
East Tennessee State: 265
Michigan State: 8
Florida Atlantic: 21
Texas A&M/Penn State: 10/146
Texas Tech: 34
California: 79 Saginaw Valley State: N/A (D2)
Rest of the ESPN Events Invitational Field:
Boise State: 66
Iowa State: 45
Virginia Tech: 53