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Marquette Volleyball Preview: At Butler

Thanks to renovations at Hinkle Fieldhouse, Marquette is in Indianapolis for a mid-week and mid-day collision with the Bulldogs.

Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

Here's the thing: Marquette's 14-4 record is probably completely expected right now.  Sure, they traded a loss to Rice for a win over Florida, but other than that, the losses all make sense: At #18 Colorado State, a neutral site squeaker against Florida State, and a home loss to the Creighton squad that was picked to win the Big East.

While the results are the completely expected ones, the sad state of volleyball in the Big East has Marquette going in an unfortunate direction: sliding downwards in the RPI.

This is what happens you play DePaul, the 301st team in the RPI.  Worse, the Golden Eagles will have to square off with the Blue Demons a second time later this season.  Even though they're racking up road wins at a rate that almost no one else in the country is able to keep up with, the quality of the opponents in the Big East is dragging down their RPI, and worse, their eventual NCAA tournament seeding.

Big East Match #7: At Butler (12-7, 4-3 Big East)

When: Wednesday, October 15, 2014, at noon Central
Where: Health & Recreation Center in Indianapolis, IN
Audio/Visual: The match isn't at Hinkle Fieldhouse, so we'll have to only rely on live stats.
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteVB

Hinkle Fieldhouse underwent renovations this past offseason, so the volleyball team had to do some creative scheduling to get their home games in.  In the case of this match, it was moved next door to Butler's equivalent of the the Helfaer Recreation Center.  I can't blame them for scheduling for the worst case scenario, but apparently Hinkle's ready to be used for basketball practice.  It's possible that getting the arena done first was a priority and there's other things - locker rooms, corridors, scoreboards - that are still in need of work and preventing this match from being moved to a more suitable environment.

Butler was picked to finish fourth in the Big East this season, and so far, that's right where they're at.  They've won three of their last four matches to swing their conference record into a positive direction after starting out 1-2 with losses to Creighton and Seton Hall.  They're actually tied with Xavier for fourth place at the moment, and with the Big East only offering four spots in the conference tournament, we could see quite the scuffle for that final spot.  Villanova is tracking along right behind that pair at 3-4 as well.

Belle Obert is the star for the Bulldogs, and one of the most versatile players in the Big East.  It took a 25 point game from Marquette's Autumn Bailey to overtake Obert for the Big East's lead in points per set.  Right now, Bailey and Obert are two of three players averaging more than 4.50 points per frame, with St. John's Karin Palgutova rounding out the trio.  Obert averages 4.07 kills per set, and she's the only Bulldog to average more than three.  She also chips in 2.5 digs and just over a block per stanza as well.

Freshman Makayla Ferguson has been wonderful at setter for Butler.  She has the second best assists average in the Big East, and is one of just three players to be averaging more than 10 assists per set.  Her 10.69/set average only trails St. John's Deniz Mutlugil by just 0.03 assists.  Senior libero Jadyn Yarling ranks seventh in the conference in digs, but it's the hands of Kayla Bivens that Marquette needs to watch out for.  The sophomore from Gainesville, Florida, leads the Big East in blocks with 1.45 per set, which is good enough for 16th best in the country.