With three starters back from last year's record-setting team, Butler has been tabbed as the near-unanimous favorite to win the 2007-08 Horizon League men's basketball championship, according to the League's preseason poll of coaches, media and sports information directors released Tuesday, Oct. 9.
The Bulldogs captured 42 of a possible 46 first place votes in the poll and racked up 456 of a possible 460 points. Four of the 46 voters tabbed the Bulldogs second in the league. Defending league champion Wright State was picked second (354 points), while Green Bay received two first place votes and was tabbed third (333).
UW-Milwaukee (325) was slated fourth in the poll, followed by Loyola (264). The Ramblers, who received the remaining two first place votes, had the unique distinction of being picked for all 10 positions in the League standings! Newcomer Valparaiso (227) was chosen sixth, followed by Detroit (201), UIC (171), Cleveland State (118) and Youngstown State (81).
First-year Butler head coach Brad Stevens was honored by the respect his team received in the league poll, but he kept the result in perspective.
"It's a tribute to the accomplishments of last year's team, but, obviously, it has no bearing on what happens this year. We'll get to work on Friday (Oct. 12) with a goal to again compete for a championship," said the new Butler coach.
Butler returns starters A. J. Graves, Mike Green and Julian Betko from last year's club, which posted a 29-7 record and advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship. The Bulldogs, who were picked sixth in last year's Horizon League preseason poll, won the NIT Season Tip-Off at Madison Square Garden in New York, were ranked in the "Top 25" of the A.P. and ESPN/USA Today national polls for a school and league record 16 consecutive weeks and became the first team in League history to crack the "Top 10" of the national rankings! Butler's 29 wins were a school and Horizon League record.
Graves, who led the Bulldogs in scoring (16.9 ppg) was a first team All-Horizon League pick in 2006-07, while Green, Butler's leader in rebounds and assists, was a second team choice. Betko started all 36 games for the Bulldogs and finished fifth in scoring.
Also back this season is senior forward Pete Campbell, who led the Horizon League in three-point field goal shooting, and senior forward Drew Streicher, who played in all 36 games and finished as the team's sixth-leading scorer. Other letterwinners back from last season are junior Ben Slaton and sophomores Willie Veasley, Elliot Engelmann and Nick Rodgers.
Stevens also will look to six newcomers this season, including two who were with the team last year. Guard Grant Leiendecker sat out last season as a medical redshirt, while forward Avery Jukes transferred to Butler from Alabama at mid-season. Sophomore Alex Anglin earned a spot on Butler's roster as a walk-on, and the Bulldogs have added three freshmen, forward Matt Howard and guards Zach Hahn and Shawn Vanzant.
The Bulldogs will begin preseason practice on Friday, Oct. 12. Butler will play St. Joseph's (Ind.) in an exhibition game on Nov. 1 and host Marian in a second exhibition contest on Nov. 3. The Bulldogs' regular season begins on Nov. 9 at Ball State.
BULLDOG BITS: Butler guards A. J. Graves and Mike Green both were named to the Collegehoops.net Preseason Mid-Major All-America Team. Graves was one of five players selected first team preseason All-America, while Green earned honorable mention.