So, What's The Problem With Butler?

Michael Hickey

Butler's 0-5. I don't think anyone had this pegged as their record headed into Saturday's game. But why is this the case?

Here's what I wrote about Butler in the capsule glance at the start of the conference schedule:

In case you were trying to remember, yes, Alex Barlow is the dude that headbutted Trent Lockett's elbow in the NCAA tournament last season. The Bulldogs played one heck of a non-conference schedule, and their two losses are by a combined four points. I really don't think anyone saw this coming after Roosevelt Jones was lost for the season following head coach Brad Stevens taking the job as the Boston Celtics head man. Yet, there's Butler playing Butler basketball, never letting any opponent off the hook, always competing. League doesn't matter, coach doesn't matter, players don't matter.

And now they're 0-5, and no one expected that, either. You can look at the fact that they've played a full extra half of a game by playing four overtime sessions in their five games this season and say that they've gotten bitten by bad luck. But through the use of Pythagorean expectation, KenPom.com can calculate luck, and Butler's only 216th in the country in that category. For comparison purposes, Marquette is 301st in luck, so Marquette has actually been unluckier than the Bulldogs so far this season.

So it's probably not just being unlucky. Yes, that's a full season number, but if they were getting bitten that badly, then it would be affecting their number a lot more. So, let's look at the rest of their KenPom numbers. We'll break the Four Factors down between full season numbers and just Butler's conference stats. At the bottom of each chart, you'll see their adjusted efficiency numbers, which is their points per 100 possession numbers as well.

We start with what's going on when Butler has the ball...

Offense
Overall Big East
eFG% 47.8% 45.1%
TO% 14.8% 14.3%
OR% 32.1% 29.5%
FTR 39.2% 37.9%
Off. Eff. 107.0 101.0

Ok, so that's not so bad. There's a slight dip in everything, except for turnover rate, which has slightly improved. Butler's Big East schedule comprises five of their nine toughest games this season, so their stats are going to be slightly down as a result of that. The improved turnover rate can just be a factor of consciously taking better care of the ball because your opponents are better. The major shift in efficiency is likely a product of the slight shift in all of the four factors combining to make Butler less efficient overall.

There's nothing here to worry about, really, so let's move to defense...

Defense
Overall Big East
eFG% 50.3% 56.6%
TO% 17.4% 16.0%
OR% 26.3% 30.1%
FTR 35.1% 41.2%
Def. Eff. 99.6 116.0

Oh. Well. I guess we found the problem.

The biggest problem for Butler is that they're the worst team in the Big East at defending two point shots. They've been allowing Big East teams to shoot 58.3% inside the arc. According to Hoop-Math, teams take 40% of their shots against Butler at the rim, where they shoot 58.9% on those shots. Given the similarities of those two shooting percentages, it seems that Butler is getting abused inside by their conference mates.

Having 6'9", 200lb Kameron Woods and 6'8", 233lb. Erik Fromm as their two largest players is a liability for Butler, and everything works outwards from there. Big men can go to town against them, leading to high percentage shots. It also leads to more offensive rebounds for Butler's opponents. Eventually, Woods and Fromm aren't going to be able to contain guys and they're going to end up fouling more. All of it culminates in a massive drop in defensive efficiency.

Marquette has two talented big men, Chris Otule and Davante Gardner, both of whom have a significant size advantage against the Bulldogs' biggest players. Both men will need to have excellent games for Marquette to avoid becoming Butler's first conference win.

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