October 29, 2009

No. 10/11 Butler Hosts DePauw In Men’s Basketball Exhibition

When the Bulldogs take the Hinkle Fieldhouse court to play DePauw in an exhibition game on Sunday, Nov. 1, at 7 p.m. (ET), they’ll do so with a distinction that no other Butler men’s basketball team has had.  For the first time in Butler basketball history, the Bulldogs will open the season as a nationally-ranked team.

Butler is ranked No. 10 in the first ESPN/USA Today Division I Coaches Poll and No. 11 in the Associated Press national poll, released this week.  The Bulldogs, who were nationally ranked for 12 consecutive weeks a year ago, ended the 2008-09 season with a No. 22 national ranking in the Associated Press (A. P.) poll and a No. 25 ranking in the ESPN/USA Today poll.  Butler has earned a “Top 25” national ranking in each of the past three seasons, though in each year the Bulldogs’ first appearance in the polls didn’t occur until after the season had started.

The No. 10 ranking is the third-highest ever achieved by a Butler team.  The Bulldogs climbed as high as No. 9 in 2006-07 and No. 8 in 2007-08.  Last year’s Butler squad was ranked as high as No. 11.  But national rankings aren’t a primary concern for Butler head coach Brad Stevens as he prepares for his team’s first 2009-10 test.

“It’s always an honor and privilege to be recognized in the national polls,” said Stevens, who’s beginning his third season at Butler.  “But beyond the positive recognition it brings to Butler University, we recognize that it’s just a preseason poll.”

The Butler coach is focused on his team and it’s upcoming exhibition contest against DePauw, a NCAA Division III squad coming off a 19-7 campaign.  The Tigers return four starters from last year’s squad, including All-Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference guard Tom Callen (13.7 ppg).

“I want to see where we are and what we need to work on,” noted Stevens, a 1999 DePauw graduate.  “The reality is you're going to make mistakes this early in the season.  The key is how hard you play and how effectively you can identify and correct your mistakes.”

The Bulldogs return all five starters from last year’s 26-6 team, which captured the Horizon League regular season championship and made a third straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament.  Leading that group is 6-8 junior Matt Howard, who topped the Bulldogs in scoring (14.8 ppg) and rebounding (6.8 rpg) while earning Horizon League Player of the Year recognition.

Also back from last year’s starting unit are 6-9 sophomore Gordon Hayward (13.1 ppg, 6.5 rpg), who was named Horizon League Newcomer of the Year and first team All-League in 2008-09, and 6-3 sophomore Shelvin Mack (11.9 ppg), who was picked to the league’s All-Newcomer Team.  Both players were members of the gold-medal winning U.S. U19 World Championship Team last summer.

Butler’s other returning starters are 6-3 senior Willie Veasley (8.9 ppg) and 6-0 sophomore Ronald Nored (4.2 ppg).  And Stevens has every other player from last year’s squad back this season.

The DePauw game will be the first of two exhibition contests for the Bulldogs.  Butler will host Taylor University in a second exhibition game on Saturday, Nov. 7, at 2 p.m. (ET).