The Northwestern Men’s Basketball team will face its toughest test to date when the it travels to Hinkle Fieldhouse to take on perennial NCAA tournament participant Butler. The Bulldogs finished 22-10 last season, eventually falling to number-one seed Virginia in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
This season, the Bulldogs are without graduated seniors Roosevelt Jones and Kellen Dunham, two players who brought a lot of toughness, leadership and offense for the team in years past. There isn’t reason for Butler to push the panic button, though; the Bulldogs return the capable trio of Tyler Lewis, Andrew Chrabascz and Kelan Martin.
Below is a scouting report on the trio: what makes them difficult to account for and how Northwestern can attack them in a key early-season non-conference matchup.
The film clips below are from last season’s matchup between 17th-ranked Butler and 8th-ranked Purdue at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Butler won 74-68 and was up by double-digits at several points in the second half.
Senior point guard—5-foot-11, 170 pounds
2015-2016 stats (per game): 19.1 minutes, 5.9 points, 2.8 assists, 1.5 rebounds, 0.7 steals, 29.2 3PT FG%, 85.2 FT%
Lewis is undersized, but he makes up for it with his high basketball IQ and savviness on the court. His production wasn’t all that high last season, but the NC State transfer didn’t always get consistent minutes in his first year in the program. Lewis won’t wow you with his athleticism or shooting, but his smarts on defense are second-to-none, and he’s a skilled passer. He’s always moving on offense, and he’s at his best when he’s getting in the paint and finding his teammates for open looks.
NOTE: All film courtesy of the Big Ten Network
1. Lewis attacking in the pick and roll
In this play, Lewis (No. 1) uses the screen to get into the lane before throwing the ball back to the open shooter. Lewis is able to draw two defenders, get into the lane and find the open man. As the possession continues, Lewis continues moving near bottom of the screen and drives, gets his defender in the air with a shot fake, and drops the ball for an easy bucket.
This time, the screener doesn’t pop, but Lewis’s man goes under the screen and Lewis makes him pay with a midrange jumper. As far as the pick and roll is concerned, Chris Collins could opt to go over screens against Lewis, but he’s not lights out from beyond the arc, and he’s tough to speed up and turn over. That’s probably a shot most coaches would live with, but it’s a shot Lewis can hit consistently.
Lewis isn’t the type of player who finishes well around size in the middle, but he has great court awareness and vision. Northwestern will have to force Lewis to finish near the rim or shoot it from the outside; he picked the Boilermakers apart while operating from the middle of the floor.
2. Lewis protecting the basket
Lewis protecting the basket? At 5-11? Yep.
He doesn’t do it in the traditional sense, but Lewis protects the rim, and this is where his basketball IQ comes into play.
In the first clip, he begins on the upper right side of the play as Purdue comes down in transition. When Lewis sees an open Purdue playing running toward the rim, he leaves his man to tuck inside and poke the ball away.
This play is so smart by Lewis; he’s right to leave the shooter to come inside. In order for Lewis’s man to get the ball, the Boilermaker running the break would have to make a crosscourt pass across traffic. And even if the pass did get there, Lewis is then trading an easy layup for a long jump shot.
On the next clip, Lewis does something similar, but this time it’s while Butler is defending in the half-court. Lewis starts in the bottom left corner of the play this time.
Again, Lewis leaves his man to help inside prevent a post touch and get a steal. This time Lewis takes a little bit more of a gamble, but he reads the game so well that he can afford to take some risks.
Purdue had a major size advantage in this game, but Lewis’s help on the insides helped keep the ball out of the post, and is a big reason why Butler neutralized Purdue’s bigs for most of the game. Now, this isn’t to say that Lewis will do the same thing against the Wildcats. Northwestern doesn’t have anything close to the size the Boilermakers had, so Lewis may stay tighter to the Wildcats’ plethora of shooters. But either way, Northwestern will have to be aware of where he is on the court because he has quick hands and tends to play like a free safety at times.
3. Lewis is a winner
Lewis was a highly recruited player when he chose to play at NC State, but he plays like he has something to prove.
On this play, Butler gets in transition and Kellen Dunham gets what would seem like an easy layup.
But Lewis doesn’t give up on the play, and comes out of nowhere to tip the ball in. Being able to steal a basket like this, especially in a big game against a good team, is undoubtedly huge. Lewis being able to get a tip-in as the smallest player on the court is a testament to kind of player he is.
Senior forward—6-foot-7, 230 pounds
2015-2016 stats (per game): 30.2 Minutes, 10.7 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1 steal, 36.9 3PT FG%, 79.1 FT%
Chrabascz is a skilled big who can stretch the floor on the pick-and-pop and put the ball on the floor. He has the ability to make plays for others, and has a pull-up jumper in his repertoire. He’s a tough matchup because he’s big enough to work from the post, though he often finds himself making plays on the perimeter. He can score in bunches when his outside shot is falling; in his final game of last season, he went for 25 against the typically stout Cavaliers. Chrabascz isn’t a prototypical center or rim-protector, but he’s strong inside and does have the ability to block shots. He does struggle in situations when he has to close out to shooters on the outside, though.
1. Chrabascz creating on the perimeter
On this play, Chrabascz (No. 45) begins on the top right of the play. He sets the screen, then pops out, but gives his defender a shot-fake before taking one dribble and hitting a pull-up.
Because Chrabascz has the ability to hit threes, defenders guarding him — which are usually fours or fives — have to respect his shot. It’s rare for a player as big as Chrabascz is to be able to put the ball on the floor like he can.
In the next clip, Chrabascz begins in the bottom right of the play. Butler often plays without a true center, so the floor is spaced out for players on the wing to slash inside.
Here, Chrabascz has a ton of space to work with. He eliminates defender Caleb Swanigan for the second time with a shot fake, but this time, as a defender slides over to help, Chrabascz dishes it to Lewis for a wide open three.
2. Chrabascz on defense
Chrabascz is strong in the post — he was able to hold his ground and avoid fouls against Purdue’s massive bigs. Like Lewis, he has a good feel for when to leave his man, and likes to take risks when he has the opportunity.
In the following play, he starts off guarding on the perimeter at the top of the screen, but leaves his man to double the ball in the post.
Because of the Bulldogs’ help defense, Dererk Pardon will have to be aware and ready to pass quickly upon receiving the ball in the post. This game could be a better fit for Gavin Skelly at the five because of his passing ability from the post and because Butler will try to spread the floor with five shooters.
Here Chrabascz shows his quick hands and the patented Butler hustle that Lewis also exemplifies:
Although Chrabascz is a solid on-ball defender, he can get exposed when trying to follow players around the perimeter.
In the next clip, he switches onto the guard on the pick and roll, but is slow getting back to his original man. By the time Chrabascz realizes he needs to get back to his man it’s too late, and Purdue gets an open three as a result.
If Northwestern can force Chrabascz to switch pick and rolls, or force him to guard the perimeter, the Wildcats should be able to get open looks.
Junior forward—6-foot-7, 220 pounds
2015-2016 stats (per game): 28.3 minutes, 15.7 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 0.8 steals, 37.7 3PT FG%, 76.1 FT&
Martin is a stretch four, but plays more like a wing. Martin is long, and is the team’s best true scorer. He shoots it well from deep, but he also can handle the ball and get into the lane. Martin isn’t the quickest defender, but he can contest shots with his length. He likes to get out in transition, and he can grab a rebound and run the break going the other way. Martin came off the bench a season ago, but with Jones and Dunham out of the fold, he’ll start and play the lead role in Butler’s offense.
1. Martin as a slasher
In the first clip, Martin (No. 30) starts at the bottom of the play. He catches the ball after Lewis’s penetration before freezing his defender and finishing in the lane.
Martin is good with the ball in his hands, and is the probably the toughest cover on Butler. Sanjay Lumpkin should be on Martin most of the time, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Vic Law on him for certain stretches to give Martin a different look.
Here’s another example; this time Martin draws a foul:
Next, Martin receives an outlet pass on the top of the screen and goes coast-to-coast for a layup.
Martin looks to push the tempo after grabbing a board, or looks to leak out if he doesn’t get the rebound. Northwestern will have to stay organized after missed shots, which may mean sending fewer numbers to the offensive glass.
2. Martin and Lewis in the pick and roll
Martin is a solid defender with his length, but he isn’t one of Butler’s best defenders by any stretch.
One area in which Martin struggled was to stay in front of quicker players. More specifically, he had multiple miscommunications with Lewis on pick and rolls.
On this play, Martin doesn’t hedge hard enough on the screen and leaves the guard late in the play. Martin is caught between switching and hedging, and in the end, does neither.
This wasn’t the only miscommunication between the two during the game. Later on, both players went with the guard, leaving the screener wide open for a jump-shot.
- Butler does have size, but it comes in the form of its reserves. Freshman Joey Brunk (a Northwestern target) and sophomore Nate Fowler stand at 6-foot-11 and 6-foot-10, respectively. Fowler can step out and hit threes though.
- Butler added transfers Kethan Savage (from George Washington) and Avery Woodson (from Memphis). Both are guards, and both should earn more playing time as the season unfolds. Savage will miss the game because he has pneumonia, though.
- Northwestern lost to Butler 65-56 in December 2014. Bryant McIntosh and Vic Law combined for 22 points off the bench in that game.