Butler men's basketball at 7-5

Coach Todd Lickliter has a record of 23-1 versus non-conference opponents. The Butler University basketball team has had an advantage over all other teams in the United States for 77 years. They play in the state of Indiana, the Land of Basketball, and, more importantly, they play in the one place that stands tall above all others as THE place to play or watch a basketball game: Hinkle Fieldhouse. The Mecca of basketball gymnasiums is their home court.

Head coach Todd Lickliter and his Bulldogs host opposing teams in what has become one of the most hostile places for visitors to win. The fieldhouse, whose name was changed in 1966 to honor longtime Butler coach Paul D. Hinkle, was built in 1928. From 1928 to 1948, it was the largest arena for basketball in the country. The Bulldogs boast a record 88 wins out of the last 101 home games and Lickliter as coach enjoys a record of 23-1 verses non-conference opponents.

Todd Lickliter, a 1979 graduate of Butler University and a two-year varsity award winner on the men’s basketball team, is guiding the Bulldogs for the fifth year. In that time, he already has achieved two seasons with the most wins of all time. The Bulldogs posted records of 26-6 in 2001-’02 and 27-6 in 2002-’03.

This year has been a mixed bag for Butler. The Bulldogs are off to a 7-5 start, not a very promising beginning. In all fairness, three of their five losses came at the hands of Michigan, Ohio State and Indiana, perennial Big Ten powerhouses. All three losses were away from home and Butler took the Buckeyes to overtime before losing.

The team appears to be struggling this year when compared to the fantastic 2002-’03 season when Butler shocked the NCAA Basketball world by beating No. 5-seed and Associated Press No. 20 ranked Mississippi State, 47-46, and No. 4-seed and Associated Press No. 14 ranked Louisville, 79-71.

That year, the Bulldogs earned their first NCAA Tournament Sweet-16 berth since 1962. They eventually lost to No. 1 seed Oklahoma, 65-54, finishing the season with a 27-6 record. The Bulldogs were rewarded by being ranked No. 20 in both the USA Today/ESPN poll and the Associated Press national poll. Butler basketball was on the map.

The team is best described as deliberate, with a balanced scoring attack. No one on the team is taller than 6-foot-7 but they play hard. The Bulldogs use as much of the shot clock as possible before shooting by using a strong passing game and good shot selection.

Eight of the 12 members of this year’s team hail from Indiana; four are in the starting five. Sophomore A.J. Graves, a 6-1 guard from Switz City, Ind. (White River Valley), averages just over 13 ppg and 6-6 junior forward Brandon Crone, Frankfort, Ind. (Frankfort), is averaging over 12 ppg and ranks in the top five for steals in the Horizon League.

All of the starting five average double figures or close; 6-3 senior guard Bruce Horan, New Castle, Ind. (Chrylser), and 6-0 guard Avery Sheets, senior, Lafayette, Ind. (McCutcheon), average just fewer than 10 ppg. Horan is Butler’s all-time three-point field goal leader and is ninth all-time in the Horizon League.

Senior Brandon Polk, the only non-Indiana native in the starting five, hails from Kansas (Wichita North) and is a 6-6 forward and the team’s leading scorer, averaging over 15 ppg. In a Horizon League poll, the transfer player from Redlands Community College in Oklahoma is a preseason pick first team All-League player. Butler was picked to finish fifth in the same poll. Last year he shot over 58 percent from the field to lead the Horizon League in field goal percentage and has been a double-figure scorer 26 of the last 29 contests.

Senior Bruce Horan is Butler's all-time three-point field goal and ninth all-time in the Horizon League. The Horizon League season opens at home for Butler on Jan. 2 against the University of Illinois-Chicago at 2 p.m. Detroit visits on Jan. 14 with a 2 p.m. tip-off; tickets for all games are available through TicketMaster or at the Clowes Memorial Hall Box Office.

With strong and consistent play in the Horizon League, the Bulldogs may yet achieve the lofty goals they set for themselves at the start of the season. A strong non-conference schedule may give them an advantage and, of course, there is Hinkle Fieldhouse.

Upcoming Butler men’s basketball home games

Monday, Jan. 2, Illinois-Chicago, Hinkle Fieldhouse at 2 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 14, Detroit, Hinkle Fieldhouse at 2 p.m.

Ticket information

Men’s basketball individual game tickets can be purchased at the Clowes Memorial Hall Box Office.

Box Office hours: Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. TicketMaster: 317-239-5151 or www.ticketmaster.com

Admission gates for walk-up sales open an hour and a half before men’s basketball games.

Ticket prices for 2005-’06 men’s basketball individual games

Chair $20

Benchback and Upper Reserved $15

General Admission (adult) $10

General Admission (youth) $5

Benchback (group of 15+) $10

General Admission (group-adult) $8

General Admission (group-youth) $4

Hinkle Fieldhouse 510 W. 49th St. Indianapolis, IN 46208