COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Khyle Marshall can’t bring himself to do it.
The Butler forward hasn’t watched tape of the Bulldogs’ ugly loss in the national championship game to Connecticut, and he doesn’t plan to because what‘s done is done. In focusing on the future, Marshall envisions people doubting a team that once again will have to form a new identity.
“They always use what we lost last year as fuel to bash on us and say that we can’t do what we did last year, especially when we did it two years in a row,” Marshall said. “There’s always going to be more doubts, and that’s just something we let go in one ear and out the other. We just worry about our team and just play hard and stay motivated.”
Butler has indeed lost a lot for a second straight offseason -- so much so that it might not even be the favorite to win the Horizon League next season. Shelvin Mack left school for the NBA after his junior year, and the college careers of stalwarts Matt Howard and Shawn Vanzant came to an end as well.
That means without three of his top four scorers, Butler coach Brad Stevens will rely upon Marshall and others to step to the forefront. Marshall was the self-described energy guy for the team as a freshman and shined while playing solid minutes in the NCAA tournament. The Florida native who’s currently playing for USA Basketball’s U-19 world championship team understands he’ll have to do more in order to move into the starting lineup.
After averaging 5.8 points and 3.8 rebounds and buying into Stevens' preference that he bring a rebounding presence off the bench, Marshall has been working on his outside jumper and ball-handling in preparation for a larger role. He was second on the team in field goal percentage and now Stevens wants him to play more small forward. Personally, he has a chip on his shoulder because it appears few outside of Indianapolis think the Bulldogs can actually get back to the Final Four.
“As a team joke going around, we just call ourselves the king of bracketbusters because we’re always messing up people’s brackets,” Marshall said. “That’s something that we love to do. It’s something we just want to continue.
“All we want to do is just prove people wrong.”
Marshall believes the coming season might present an even greater challenge than when Butler lost Gordon Hayward to the NBA draft, and it certainly wasn’t easy getting back to the title game even with a veteran team. Butler was 14-9 at one point last season and needed to learn to stop living off the past, he said. The Bulldogs ended up reeling off 14 straight wins, and America fell in love all over again. The team fell short of the national championship after a horrific night shooting the ball, but Marshall said he’s over it.
“It did take quite a bit [of time],” he said. “Pretty much all you hear is worst shooting performance in NCAA finals history, and that’s something you can’t get rid of. It’s in the books. It’s permanent. It’s something we always got to remember, keep in our minds, and just hope we don’t have a shooting performance like that ever again. It’s something Coach has told us.
“Everybody on campus, they believe we can do it again, and I know our guys they want to do it again. We just need one more step to win it all. They are hungry to win it all.”