1) Marquette is not going to shoot like that for nine more games.
While it was a fantastic performance by the Golden Eagles to beat the Bulldogs on Saturday, I don't think that performance is able to be replicated, much less sustainable. Here's what I mean:
- Jajuan Johnson: 5-8, 1-1 behind the arc
- Henry Ellenson: 8-14, 2-2 behind the arc
- Traci Carter: 5-9, 5-7 behind the arc
That's 58 of Marquette's 75 points from dudes who shot their asses off against Butler. I almost put Duane Wilson (3-5, 1-3 behind the arc) on that list, but that's actually below his season averages on both accounts. Johnson's two point shooting was better than his season average, but he's only a 36% three point shooter on the season on just 38 attempts. The biggest surprises were Ellenson (47% on twos, 29% on threes AFTER this game) and OH MY GOD Carter, who got so hot behind the arc, he went from a 29% three point shooter to a 35% three point shooter.
Be honest: after Saturday's game, you and half your friends said "hey, if they play like that for the rest of the season, Marquette will be in good shape," right? I don't know if that's even possible, much less likely.
2) Butler might not be good.
I know Butler was in the top 10 in the Associated Press poll earlier this season, cranking up as high as #9 after they beat Purdue. They held that spot for a second straight week, but then dropped games to Providence and Xavier the following week. And that's where we get into the problems.
Yes, Butler beat Cincinnati in the Fifth Third Bank Center. Yes, Butler beat Purdue in the Crossroads Classic at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. They haven't beaten a top 150 team since then. Butler is 3-6 in Big East games, with their wins coming in a season sweep of DePaul and a home game against St. John's. We've talked in the past about how Marquette needs top 50 wins to make the NCAA tournament. Butler's parade through the first half of the Big East schedule has just been one top 50 loss after another, capped off by a loss to Marquette, which is not a top 150 team. That doesn't bode well for them, and neither does being in ninth place in defensive efficiency amongst Big East teams in league play. If Butler's not actually going to be any good for the rest of the season, and they're currently at #48 in the KenPom rankings, their lowest rank of the season, then beating them doesn't really help Marquette at all.
3) Marquette's remaining schedule looks like a wood chipper.
Nine Big East games remain. Four at home, five on the road. Considering the KenPom rankings, Marquette's easiest game is a road trip to #166 DePaul. Two problems with that: 1) Marquette lost at DePaul last year and 2) Marquette lost to DePaul at home this year. So when I look at the schedule on Marquette's KenPom page and see eight predicted losses and one predicted win, but the win is the DePaul game, I'm not exactly overburdened with positive outlooks for the future.
The final nine games of the season feature seven contests against KenPom top 50 teams, and another game against a top 60 team in Georgetown. It's a nightmare schedule for a team that's struggling as much as Marquette has been this season, made worse by the knowledge that MU had massive power outages against seven of the teams that they'll be playing. Those four or five or six minute spans where Marquette just stops scoring? They keep happening, even in games like Providence and Butler, the two biggest wins of the season for the Golden Eagles. This isn't even getting into the fact that Marquette hasn't played Creighton at all yet this year, and the Bluejays seem to be rounding into a high quality opponent at the midway point of the league schedule.
I'm not trying to pour vinegar into anyone's cornflakes here. Maybe some lights went on for Marquette on Saturday against Butler. Maybe they understand how to play together as a team better. Maybe they understand the kind of effort required to beat quality opponents more than ever now. Maybe the hot shooting was a result of that kind of understanding.
While all of that is possible, it's also possible that the same team that clanked a great opportunity to beat Xavier at home shows up when they host Villanova on National Marquette Day, or on any other number of chances to earn quality wins. Be happy that they beat Butler, but don't be surprised if it doesn't turn the season around.