Butler basketball has always prided itself on being greater than the sum of its parts.
That attitude will certainly be put to the test for the upcoming season, as the Bulldogs will lose their top two scorers (Rotnei Clarke and Andrew Smith) and leading rebounder, who also happened to be Smith.
And unless you've been living under a rock or simply refuse to acknowledge the outside world until reaching the next level of CandyCrush (can't really blame you, really addicting stuff), you've probably heard by now that Brad Stevens is the head coach of the Boston Celtics.
With all things considered, this version of the Bulldogs may have the most question marks heading into the season than any we have watched in the last decade.
But every question has an answer, regardless of what my high school algebra tests may have looked like. And this Butler basketball puzzle is an intriguing one.
Here are the projected leaders for each statistical category heading into the 2013-2014 season.
Roosevelt Jones has one of the best floaters in college hoops.
Roosevelt Jones ranked third in scoring for the Bulldogs in 2012-13 but will likely have an increased role in the offense going forward.
With questions at the point guard position looming, the primary ball-handler on this team could turn out to be Jones. And he should be up to the task.
When Clarke was sidelined with a neck injury for a portion of last year, the reins were handed to Jones. He responded with by averaging 15 points per game in the four games Clarke missed (including the one he was injured in, where he only played 12 minutes).
What's interesting about Jones' game is that he's an extremely one-dimensional offensive player. And by that I mean, a game of H-O-R-S-E between him and Shaquille O'Neal is probably comparable in terms of quality to your average episode of George Lopez. It really is that bad, and his free-throw percentage of a touch above 55 actually doesn't look so dreadful when you consider the form in which he shoots them.
Still, knock the guy's jumper all you want, but he can essentially get to the rim whenever he feels like it. His combination of strength and quickness is lethal, and he pairs that with one of the prettiest and most effective floaters in college basketball.
No, he does not play fullback for the Indianapolis Colts...yet. He is, however, the projected leading scorer for the 2013-14 Butler Bulldogs.
The most debatable category for the sake of this piece is rebounding, due to the amount of possible suitors.
While Roosevelt Jones is the team's returning leader (he averaged over six rips per game last year), and Khyle Marshall is also a worthy candidate, allow me to make a case for Kameron Woods.
Obviously, this all hinges on the amount of minutes he receives. But in just 17 of them per game this year, he averaged a shade under five boards per game.
What's more impressive is that his defensive rebound percentage, a metric that calculates the percentage of available defensive rebounds a player grabbed while he was on the floor, was an astonishing 24.7 percent.
To put the number in perspective, that was roughly seven percentage points higher than the team's total leading rebounder from a year ago, Andrew Smith. And Nerlens Noel, one of the most dynamic college basketball players we have seen from a defense and rebounding standpoint in a long time, posted a percentage of 22.3 in that category in his only year at Kentucky.
There's a reason I constantly say Woods is the most dynamic player on the Butler roster, and it's not just because he says "hi" to me whenever I see him on campus. Whenever he gets an opportunity, he's simply one of the most productive players on the court. For Woods, it's really just a matter of earning the coach's trust and staying out of foul trouble.
And I repeat, he needs to stay out of foul trouble. If he doesn't, the undersized Bulldogs may just get manhandled on the glass in the most brutal conference they have ever competed in.
Jones is the safe pick to lead the team in assists, as he is the roster's most proven playmaker.
He led the Bulldogs in assists a year ago, and while he lacks a jump shot to complement his outstanding ability to penetrate, he does have exceptional court vision. And since he'll likely be the cause of many more double teams this year, expect his assist numbers to rise.
Still, this all hinges on whomever emerges at point guard for the Bulldogs under new head coach Brandon Miller. Jackson Aldridge may be the best ball handler and playmaker on the team, but could never quite defend or shoot the way former coach Brad Stevens wanted him to. He may be a beneficiary of a coaching change.
Alex Barlow and Rene Castro could also lead the team in assists if given enough minutes, but expect Miller to mix and match with these three to start the year until one of them emerges. Jones, meanwhile, will have the ball in his hands plenty throughout the course of the season.
Therefore, expect Roosevelt Jones to lead this Butler team in dimes.
A very interesting stat here: Aaron Craft, the Ohio State point guard widely recognized as the best defender in college basketball, had an advanced steal percentage of 3.8 percent last year. This number is the estimated percentage of opponent possessions that end in a steal by any given player.
It also happens to be the exact same percentage as Butler's Alex Barlow.
No, Alex Barlow is not the defender that Aaron Craft is. But from a numbers perspective, he's not that far off.
His defensive rating (a metric aimed to calculate the amount of points a player is responsible for allowing per 100 possessions) ranked second on last year's squad, notching a 95.4. Craft finished at 92.4, so while superior, it really speaks volumes to Barlow's defensive prowess. Take into account that Barlow is under six feet tall, and you can get an idea for how Craft-y (get it?) he truly is.
Frankly, no one on the Butler roster will probably be close to Barlow in this category, unless he doesn't receive the minutes he did last year. The next highest advanced steal percentages on the team belonged to Kameron Woods and seldom used Davontae Morgan, who were both at 2.2 percent.
We know what Barlow is capable of defensively. It's his facilitating on offense, or really, the ability of guys like Kellen Dunham and Roosevelt Jones to be capable of carrying the scoring load offensively that will decide the amount of minutes he will get. If the offense falters, expect to see Rene Castro to get plenty of opportunities to unseat Barlow.
Still, as it stands now, Alex Barlow is your unquestioned favorite to lead the Butler Bulldogs in steals next year.
While unlikely, I truly hope that Kameron Woods gets drafted one day just so we can all hear how many times the term "wingspan" is mentioned in his draft description.
But really, the guy has extremely long arms and impeccable timing, which makes him the obvious candidate to lead the team in shot-blocking. He was the team's leading shot-blocker last year and didn't even log substantial minutes until late in the season.
It's not as if he has much competition. Khyle Marshall has never been much of a rim protector, and truth be told, I'm not even sure if Erik Fromm can dunk.
While slightly unrelated, I am really looking forward to this year's matchup between Marquette and Butler. Not because of how epic their two meetings were last year (the buzzer-beater by Rotnei Clarke in Maui, followed by the Marquette thriller to knock out Butler in the NCAA tournament), but simply to watch the 290-pound Davantae Gardner match up with 200-pound (maybe I'll believe that listing if he's weighing in with boulders in in his pockets) Kameron Woods.
Talk about appointment television. If Woods can swat three or four Garner shots into the Dawg Pound while staying out of foul trouble, thus meaning he's probably doing his job as the Butler rim protector for most of the season, they should be in good shape.
The Bulldogs certainly need an imposing presence in the paint to compete in the rugged Big East. While unproven, Woods has the potential to make life difficult for below-the-rim bigs such as Gardner.