Team: Butler Bulldogs
2021-22 Record: 1-27, 0-18 Big East
2021-22 Big East Finish: Very much 11th, four wins behind 10th place Xavier.
Final 2021-22 Her Hoop Stats Ranking: #349 out of 356 teams
Postseason? Only if you count losing 58-39 to Seton Hall in the first round of the Big East tournament.
Key Departures: The list starts with leading scorer Celena Taborn, who was, at 12.8 per game, the only Bulldog to average more than eight points a game last season. The 6’3” grad transfer from Furman was also one of just three Butler players to start in at least 20 of their 28 games, and led the team in rebounding, too. When you know they averaged less than eight a game, it kind of loses the impact of saying that the Bulldogs lose their #3 and #4 scorers, Alex Richard and Zoe Jackson respectively, but I still wouldn’t recommend losing three of your top four.
Also gone is Emilia Sexton, who was one of three women to play in all 28 games. She gave them over 28 minutes a night on average, even while only starting 18 times. Sexton contributed 6.1 points, 2.4 rebounds, and a bit over an assist per game. Genesis Parker is also gone now, but that’s not really a loss from last year’s squad. Parker played in just one game, the season opener against Indiana, before suffering an ACL injury. She averaged 10.3 points per game in 46 appearances for the Bulldogs in the two previous seasons, which probably goes a little bit of the way towards explaining why the season went so poorly for Butler after her injury.
We can’t wrap up this section without pointing out that head coach Kurt Godlevske was quite obviously relieved of his duties after the season ended without the Bulldogs winning a single game against a Big East opponent. You could probably ask two questions about how his tenure ended. The first is why he was allowed to continue after they started the year 0-10 before beating Evansville for their only win of the year. The second is why Butler waited until March 22nd to announce this after their Big East tournament loss happened on March 3rd.
Key Returners: At 7.5 points per game, Trinity White is the leading returning scorer on the roster for Butler. The 5’9” guard from Texas was also one of four Bulldogs to average more than three rebounds a game last season. Tenley Dowell, one of the group to play in all 28 games, is the leading returning rebounder at 5.1 a night, just a shade behind Taborn’s team high. Sydney Jaynes played in every game, chipping in 5.1 points and 2.8 rebounds per outing while starting 13 times. Kendall Wingler, a 5’10” guard from Kentucky, was Butler’s best three-point shooter last year as a redshirt freshman.... and she converted just 31.7% of her attempts. There’s a lot of clues as to why Butler wasn’t very good, aren’t there?
Key Additions: Alright, get a beverage and pull up a chair, we’re going to be here for a while just talking about Butler’s new transfers. First the grad transfers, all of whom are on a COVID bonus year of eligibility.....
- Shay Frederick, who appeared in every game possible in four years at Valparaiso. The 5’7” guard averaged team highs of 11.9 points and 4.8 assists last season, and that assist number was the tops in the Missouri Valley and #47 in the country. The Wisconsin native also added 3.6 rebounds and a steal per game on her way to First Team All-MVC honors.
- Rachel McLimore, who started her collegiate career at DePaul for a year, playing in 30 games before transferring to IUPUI. The 5’10” guard/forward from Indiana appeared in 78 games over the past three seasons for the Jaguars and was one of the best defensive players in the Horizon League in each of the past two campaigns. McLimore averaged 13.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 2.8 assists last season while hitting over 40% of her long range attempts.
- Kelsy Taylor, who comes to Butler from Division 3 Trine University in Michigan. The 6’2” forward from Kentucky made 77 starts in 106 appearances for the Thunder, including all 32 games last season as they went 28-4 and reached the D3 Final Four. She averaged 8.4 points and 5.3 rebounds per game.
And now the traditional transfers.....
- Anna Mortag, who spent her first two years of college at IUPUI. After a bit part role as a freshman, the Brookfield Central grad was a rotation player for the Jaguars in 2021-22, averaging 6.6 points and 3.2 rebounds in 16.2 minutes a game. At 35.3%, she showed an ability to knock down a three if she gets a chance, but that works out to less than one make per game on average for her.
- Caroline Strande, who spent two years at Minnesota after graduating from Racine Lutheran. She broke the Crusaders’ all time scoring record along with their assists and steals records.... but that never turned into playing time with the Gophers, as she appeared in just 21 games in two seasons for a total of 176 minutes. It remains to be seen how much a fresh start with a program at a reset point will benefit the 5’11” guard.
The Bulldogs also add three freshmen to the roster. Jessica Carrothers is the most notable one, as she was the runner up for the 2022 Indiana Miss Basketball crown and actually took home the Gatorade Indiana Player of the Year award. Crown Point went 103-7 with Carrothers on the roster, including a perfect 42-0 at home, and won a 2021 state title as well. She averaged 20.7 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 3.6 steals per game as a senior..... and was going to be attending IUPUI before the Jaguars’ coach left for a new job. Feels weird that ESPN’s #28 point guard was going to the Horizon League for a minute there, but I’m not the one in charge of making decisions here on either side of the recruiting trail.
Butler also adds Chloe Jeffers, a 5’10” guard from Ohio, and Jordan Meulemans, a 6’0” guard from De Pere, Wisconsin. Both Jeffers and Meulemans signed up to play with the Bulldogs back in November, and they have elected to stick with the program after the coaching change
And finally, probably the biggest Key Newcomer......
Coach: Austin Parkinson starts his first season with Butler this winter, but not his first season in Indianapolis. For the past 12 seasons, he’s been the head coach at IUPUI, just a scant five miles down the street from Hinkle Fieldhouse. With a record of 224-131, he is the winningest coach in Jaguars history and is coming off the program’s first ever NCAA tournament appearance after winning the 2022 Horizon League tournament. It’s not the first time that Parkinson had guided IUPUI to an NCAA automatic bid, as they earned the spot for the 2020 tournament with a HL tourney title but the national event was canceled before it started.
For those of you paying attention, yes, Parkinson brought two of his IUPUI players and one of his recruits with him to Butler. Probably didn’t even have to move, either.
Outlook: It can’t possibly get worse.
No, that’s not a very high bar for Austin Parkinson as he makes the head coaching leap from the Horizon League to the Big East. But that’s the bar you get when you take over a team that went 1-27 last season, brings back just 41.2% of their scoring and only 45.7% of their minutes played, and was quite literally one of the absolute worst teams in the country. If Butler wins one non-conference game and one Big East game next season, then they’re doing better than they did last year. I’m presuming that Parkinson has much bigger goals than that, because duh, why wouldn’t he, but pointing the program in a positive direction won’t take much. Heck, Butler only has to win five total games to end up better than they did in the past two seasons combined, and only four league games to come ahead of the past two campaigns, too.
The question for Butler in Year One of Parkinson’s tenure is going to be how he’s going to get everything moving in the same direction. The good news for him is that he has four regular contributors and seven women in total back from last year’s Butler roster. That group can be his guiding light for How Things Are Done Around Here, and that can just mean “actually, it’s quicker to get to the locker room if you come in through that door instead of that one” type of things.
I think it’s mostly good news for Parkinson that he’s bringing two of his IUPUI players with him. The worst case scenario is that Rachel McLimore and Anna Mortag know how Parkinson likes to operate and they can help bridge the gap in language and knowledge involved to help get everyone on the same page quicker. To a certain extent, Jessica Carrothers can help here as well, as she knows Parkinson from her recruitment to IUPUI.
Past that, I think Parkinson is going to have to figure out a way to balance out the goals and expectations of his five transfer players on the roster against the natural and organic growth of his program. Giving Shay Frederick the reigns might not be a bad idea to win basketball games this year because of a shortage of options elsewhere on the returning roster.... but is it the best thing for the Bulldogs in 2023-24? Are they better off focusing things around what Carrothers brings to the table, since she’ll be the most likely long term option as star player for Butler?
Ultimately, this is probably a Year Zero for Parkinson, who has been churning out 20 win seasons at IUPUI for the past several years. Given that low bar to start things off, Butler can afford to just be run of the mill bad this season. A 10 win season with four of those coming in league play would be a huge leap forward from what happened in 2021-22, so as long as the Bulldogs show signs of going in a positive direction, it will be a successful season at Hinkle Fieldhouse.