After dropping three of four in a two week span following Thanksgiving, the Butler Bulldogs fell out of the national rankings and were no longer on the minds of the national college basketball cognoscenti. Conventional wisdom believed that “The Butler Way” peaked last season, and the honeymoon period was now long over.
Sure, the Bulldogs had their struggles, but they’ve won 6 in a row since then, including four over power conference opponents (Utah, Florida St, Washington St, Stanford…Yes, I know it’s difficult to refer to the Pac-10 as a power conference these days).
And even though Gordon Hayward is now in the NBA, they still have another weapon possessing “league” potential in junior guard Shelvin Mack.
By Paul M. Banks
The 6-3 play-maker was a member of the USA basketball select team chosen to train against the US National team last summer. Mack talked about how he spent his summer vacation.
“On that team I really didn’t have to score a lot, my job was to help get other people open shots. It really helped my game a lot,” he said.
Mack developed more of a distributor mentality, and augmented the fundamentals of his game.
“I improved finishing around the basket a lot better, and with changing pace. I had to guard (Rajon) Rondo, Derrick Rose- they change pace really quick and can explode at any moment really fast, so it’s hard to stay with them,” he said.
Mack currently leads the Bulldogs in assists, steals and three-pointers. In the preseason he was named first team All-American by Fox Sports, honorable mention All-American by AP, Wooden and Naismith award watch list, and Horizon League preseason player of the league.
Although he’s having a solid season, he really has had some struggles at times. Butler Coach Brad Stevens articulated why that might be.
“I think everyone’s keying on him, everyone’s going to be keying on him the entire year, and I think in January he’ll be a different player because of it, because I think that’s a really a good thing to go through,” Stevens said,
At the next level, it will be interesting to see where Mack fits; what position he’s projected to play will go a long way towards determining his draft stock. Will be a “combo guard,” a one or a two?
“I like to think of myself as a basketball player I can do all kinds of things, I really don’t need to score a lot for our team to be successful,” he said.
You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank
He also does a regular weekly segment on chicagolandsportsradio.comFollow paulmbanks