INDIANAPOLIS — Lost in the euphoria of the Butler men's basketball team making the NCAA tournament in March and then proceeding to pound Arkansas into submission in its opening game was the fact that the Bulldogs lost seven of their last 11 games to close the season.
There were several factors that played a role in that slide, with a lack of rebounding being one of the more critical reasons.In that late stretch, Butler was outworked on the glass in nine of those 11 games.
"Some things we're doing (this year) are new," first-year Butler coach LaVall Jordan said during the tournament. "A lot of things we're doing are kind of Butler standard principles, so toward the end of the year, their mindset was the same. We lost a couple that hurt to lose. It always hurts to lose, but they came into practice the very next day just wanting to learn from that loss and be better the next time out."
The Bulldogs were the eighth-worst rebounding squad in the Big East overall and sixth in league games alone. Having graduated its two leading rebounders (Kelan Martin and Tyler Wideman) it is easy to believe that grabbing errant shots will be a concern again next season, however, assistant coach Omar Lowery believes that the issue can be remedied and the Bulldogs began that process Monday with their first official team practice of the 2018-19 season.
"I think that we are going to be a bigger team," Lowery told News-Sentinel.com last month. "We lose (Wideman) but we are still a big, long, athletic team."Butler added 6-7 Jordan Tucker around Christmas time following his transfer from Duke and he will join a host of players that Lowery says can be effective on the glass.
"Jordan will bring (size) into the mix," Lowery continued. "KB (Kamar Baldwin) is going to get more rebounds, AT (Aaron Thompson), Joey (Brunk) and Nate (Fowler)."
Fowler (6-10) and Brunk (6-11) will be placed in much more significant roles than a season ago with the loss of Wideman and Lowery said that Fowler is preparing himself well for that increased position.
"Nate has had a really, really productive spring," Lowery said. "He is looking really good."
Fowler averaged just three boards per game as a junior but he had a season-high 12 rebounds in a rout of Western Illinois and was productive in Big East games at Xavier (nine boards) and against St. John's and Creighton (six rebounds each).
At just 6-1, Baldwin is the only returning Big East rebounding leader (he is eighth overall among returners) under 6-5 and Lowery said he should be more effective this coming season due to his work in the weight room this spring.
"He has gotten bigger," Lowery said.
kamar balDwin pic.twitter.com/f82quLjwkf— Butler Basketball (@ButlerMBB) June 27, 2018
Baldwin was listed at 170 pounds last season but Lowery said: "He is probably up to 205."
Baldwin averaged over five boards per game within the conference as a sophomore and he will also be helped in that regard by the lanky Sean McDermott.
McDermott was a force on the glass at times last season. The 6-foot-6 athlete grabbed at least five rebounds nine times as a redshirt sophomore, including 12 (at Georgetown) and 11 (at Xavier).
"Sean, he had a terrific offseason," Jordan said of McDermott's work last summer. "I thought he prepared himself well to have a big role this year and then as we got into the start of the non-conference, he came out really strong."
In addition to Fowler and Brunk in the post, Jordan signed Virginia prep school standout Bryce Golden this spring following his de-commitment from Pitt.
At 6-8, Golden has bulked up to 240 pounds this spring and Jordan feels he can positively impact the Bulldogs this season, as well.
"He's a good kid," Jordan told News-Sentinel.com. "He's a really good student and he is a tough, hard-working guy.
"Bryce is a high-motor, high-energy guy. He has a versatility to him but he also brings a physicality that will be really welcomed."
This article is written by Tom Davis from The News-Sentinel and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.