Four-Point Play:

Analysis: Scouting Kelan Martin, Kamar Baldwin and Butler

By: Scottie Bordelon
Published: Wednesday, March 14, 2018
Butler guard Kamar Baldwin (3) shoots over Seton Hall center Angel Delgado (31) in the waning seconds of an NCAA college basketball game in the Big East men's tournament quarterfinals in New York, Thursday, March 8, 2018. Butler upset Seton Hall 75-74. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Butler guard Kamar Baldwin (3) shoots over Seton Hall center Angel Delgado (31) in the waning seconds of an NCAA college basketball game in the Big East men's tournament quarterfinals in New York, Thursday, March 8, 2018. Butler upset Seton Hall 75-74. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Kelan Martin

Mike Anderson could not have spoken higher of Butler forward Kelan Martin this week. And the praise is warranted.

Martin, a 6-7, 220-pound senior from Louisville, led the Big East in scoring during conference play at nearly 24 points per game. With nine points on Friday, he'll become the third player in program history to reach 2,000 career points.

Only one player has finished with a better in-conference scoring average than Martin since the Big East realigned five seasons ago: Creighton's Doug McDermott, who earned National Player of the Year that season (2013-14).

"I think we're all going to have to be aware of where he is because he has unlimited range," Anderson said. "He can put it on the floor, he can shoot it from 30 feet out and rise up over the guards and just pull up and shoot it.

"He's a guy that's capable of getting 30-40 points. ... We have to be mindful of where he is. He's a prolific scorer, and we have to keep him off the boards as well."

Martin averages a team-high 20.8 points 6.2 rebounds per game, and was one of three players in the Big East unanimously selected first team all-conference by the league's coaches. He's poured in 20+ points in 19 games this season and led the Bulldogs in scoring 22 times.

The senior has added 30 or more four times in 2018, including a career-high 37 against Marquette and, perhaps more impressively, dropped back-to-back 30-point performances on eventual 1-seeds Villanova and Xavier in the span of five days in early February.

As a team, Butler receives 27 percent of its scoring from the power forward position this season, according to KenPom, which ranks 18th nationally thanks to Martin's game.

Anderson complimented Butler's bigs' ability to stretch the floor and knock down perimeter jumpers. Specifically, Martin derives 25 percent of his positive scoring value by shooting 3s, according to HoopLens, and 43 percent at the free throw line. Martin is Butler's highest-volume shooter from beyond the arc (87/240) and the foul line (118/142).

Here's an example of Martin's impressive handle and range in the Bulldogs' win over Villanova in late December:

Often times when preparing for unfamiliar opponents and their stars, coaches and players will draw comparisons to faces they know well within their own league. Tuesday, Jaylen Barford likened Martin to Tennessee's Admiral Schofield, a skilled forward who invites contact around the rim and rebounds with great instincts that can also punish you from the outside. Daryl Macon agreed.

"He's a great player. I watched the game when they played Villanova (Butler won 101-93)," Macon said. "I realized that game he's probably one of the best 4 men in the country. He's tough. That's basically all I can say. He's tough. We're going to try and see how tough he is Friday."

Martin is the key piece for Butler. He's played 87 percent of possible minutes this season - no fewer than 29 in each game, 40+ four times - and taken 30.8 percent of the Bulldogs' shots this season, which places him 85th nationally and 15th among players in the NCAA Tournament field, per KenPom's figures.

Kamar Baldwin, other weapons

As great as Kelan Martin has been this season, Butler wouldn't be making yet another trip to the tournament without great complementary players.

Guard Kamar Baldwin is that and some. Baldwin's 15.5 points is second on the team only to Martin, and his 4.8 rebounds rank third. The sophomore scored a career-high 32 points against Seton Hall in the Big East quarterfinals, bettering a 31-point outing in 49 minutes against Georgetown on Dec. 27.

Baldwin has scored 25+ points five times, including a 28-point night against Xavier. He averaged 20 points in five games against Villanova and Xavier.

He can do more than just score and rebound, though. Baldwin is one of two Bulldogs - Aaron Thompson - with 100+ assists this season, and his 61 dimes in Big East play led the squad. He set a career high with seven assists in the win over Villanova that saw the Bulldogs make 10 consecutive 3s and 15 for the game on 22 attempts. He later matched it in a loss to Georgetown on Feb. 13.

Butler's reserves can be a big plus, too, as they've proven throughout the season. The bench has scored at least 20 points in 18 games, and the Bulldogs have won the bench scoring battle in 20 of 33 games, including four of the last five.

First-year coach LaVall Jordan has received at least one double-figure effort off the bench in 16 games this season. Guard Paul Jorgensen has been most consistent in that area with six such performances in 10 games coming off the bench while 6-6 forward Sean McDermott has four. Three other players - Thompson, Nate Fowler, Henry Baddley - each have two.

Efficient Bulldogs

Butler played the 16th toughest schedule in the country, according to KenPom. ESPN places it 21st. In reality, the Bulldogs probably deserved better than a 10 seed.

LaVall Jordan led the program to several high-profile wins. Sure, the Bulldogs stumbled a bit down the stretch and finished at 9-9 in the Big East, but don't let that fool you. They're a really good, efficient team.

Butler will enter Friday with a top 30 offense in terms of adjusted offensive efficiency (115.7). A major reason for that is the Bulldogs aren't prone to miscues. Their 15.7 percent turnover rate - 28th nationally - is 14th-best among tournament teams.

Jordan's club committed only six turnovers against Seton Hall in the Big East Tournament, marking the 10th game this season the Bulldogs finished with single digit turnovers. Eight of those games have come since January.

Butler's +3.0 turnover margin is good for second in the Big East and 30th nationally. Arkansas, obviously, is a team that thrives off turnovers, so that will be a number to watch on Friday. Arkansas turns teams over at a 19.4 percent clip.

Macon is confident the Razorbacks will be able to play the game at their pace.

"We're just going to go out there and play our brand of basketball. We pride ourselves on making the other team turn the ball over," he said. "I don't think the Big East has a team like us that pressures and speeds the other team up."

Arkansas also doesn't want to send the Bulldogs to the line if it can help it. Butler is in the top 20 in free throw percentage, converting 77 percent of its tries. The Bulldogs have shot 80 percent or better at the line 16 times this season and in seven of their last 11 games.

Last but not least, Butler's defense allows just 97.9 points per 100 possessions - 48th nationally and nearly seven points under the Division 1 average. Kamar Baldwin is one of the nation's best defenders you don't know about. He currently ranks fifth in the country with 1.5 steals per game.

As a team, Butler forces a turnover on 19.8 percent of possessions.

What to know, what to watch

-Butler does not defend the 3 well. The Bulldogs allow opponents to shoot the 3 at a 37.4 percent clip, which ranks 296th nationally. Of the teams in the field, only TCU and North Carolina are worse in that category. Arkansas, on the other hand, sits just outside the top 10 in 3-point efficiency, connecting on 40.1 percent from distance. Should Arkansas and Purdue advance, it would pit two of the field's top four 3-point shooting teams on the same floor.

-Butler has won 20 games for the 12th time in the last 13 seasons. Kelan Martin and Tyler Wideman are the third Butler senior class to have played in four consecutive NCAA Tournaments. The Bulldogs have made the NCAA Tournament 10 of the last 12 seasons.

-Fifteen of Butler's 33 games to this point in the season have come against NCAA Tournament teams. The Bulldogs are 5-10 in those games, highlighted by wins over 5-seed Ohio State (Nov. 26, 1-seed Villanova (Dec. 30) and 8-seed Creighton (Feb. 20). Arkansas went 8-8 against tournament teams.

-Butler is a 10 seed for the second time in program history. The Bulldogs took down 7-seed Wake Forest 79-63 in 2001 after leading 43-10 at halftime. LaVall Jordan was a senior on that 2000-01 team and finished with 15 points and seven rebounds against the Demon Deacons.

-Kelan Martin and Tyler Wideman thrive in late-game situations. Martin has a pair of game-winning buckets this season in wins over Ohio State and Georgetown and, in the Big East Tournament, Wideman grabbed an offensive rebound and scored with less than four seconds to play, helping the Bulldogs edge Seton Hall 75-74. Wideman leads the Big East with a field goal percentage of 68.5 (115/168).

-In its first meeting with Villanova this season, Butler became the first team to score 100+ points in a win over a top-ranked team since UMass handed Arkansas a 104-80 loss in 1994.

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