If you blinked, you might’ve missed the Butler Men’s Basketball season that seemed to end just as quickly as it started. Following a frustrating regular season performance, the Bulldogs bowed out of the NIT early with a 76-80 loss to the Nebraska Cornhuskers. 16-17 is Butler’s first under .500 season since 2014 when the Brandon Miller experience tried and failed inside Hinkle Fieldhouse.
Still, there were some bright moments that LaVall Jordan can hang his hat on. Kamar Baldwin has grown into one of the country’s premiere point guards and Paul Jorgensen won Big East Sixth Man of the Year. Looking forward, Butler 360 Sports looks to predict what Bulldogs have the best chance at taking home Big East hardware at the end of next season. Could a newcomer take home Freshman of the Year? Who will fill Jorgensen’s role off the bench? Keep reading to find out.
Big East Player of the Year: Kamar Baldwin
Baldwin is the obvious choice for POY, as the now-senior guard leads Butler in almost every way. On the court, he’s the team’s most effective and reliable scorer. His 17.2 PPG in 2018-19 was by far the most substantial on the team (Jorgensen at 11.7) and defensively, not many players in the country have the effort and physical measurements of Baldwin. With the second leading scorer graduating, there is no reason he can’t improve that scoring output to at least twenty.
BE Freshman of the Year: Khalif Battle
The recruiting class is small for Butler, but if there is any reason for optimism, it’s Khalif Battle. There’s a lot to like about the 6’5” guard from New Jersey. Battle averaged nearly 24 PPG this season for Trenton Catholic who won 15 of their last 18 games. The one cause for concern is his lack of production in other areas. Battle ended the season with just 10 total assists and 35 total rebounds. If he can contribute even slightly more in other aspects of the game, his scoring numbers alone could propel him to FOY.
BE Defensive of the Year: Aaron Thompson
Aaron Thompson transitioned from being primarily a defensive piece during his freshman year, to a legitimate threat to get good looks in the paint in 2018-19. Even so, the main advantage he offers the Bulldogs will always be his intelligent and stymie play on defense. Despite not having the length of Baldwin, watching Thompson shut down opposing guards is a thing to behold. If he can find away to average one more steal per game, Defensive POY might not be out of the question.
BE Most Improved Player: Sean McDermott
There is a case to be made that McDermott could’ve won Most Improved Player this past season. While his scoring only went up by two (from 7.5 to 9.5), his impact on the starting lineup cannot be understated. McDermott led the team in three pointers made and single handedly carried the team in numerous games during the season (Four 20+ scoring games). If he can stay aggressive and have confidence in his shot over the course of an entire year, McDermott could easily score 15 PPG for Butler next season.
BE Sixth Man of the Year: Bryce Nze
There will be one more newcomer to the court for Butler in 2019-20 and his name is Bryce Nze. Coming over from UW-Milwaukee, the stocky power forward has a chance to play big minutes off the bench – considering the ever-depleting frontcourt. Nze averaged 10.3 PPG in 2017, but has experience as a sixth man. During his freshman year, he averaged nearly seven points per game in a reserve role for the Panthers. If Nze can figure out a jump shot that has to be respected by opponents, he could make waves in the second unit.
Do you agree with this predictions? Is there anything you would change? Let us know in the comments.