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Marquette Basketball Preview Primer: at Butler Bulldogs

The Golden Eagles head back out on the road for a rare Friday night encounter.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: DEC 16 Crossroads Classic - Purdue at Butler Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

I can say with a good amount of comfort that the fanbase is about as high on Marquette basketball as almost any point during the Wojo era. Nothing will ever beat the few days after the Villanova win, even though I was calm and collected about it, but they’ve started conference play this season, by far the hardest stretch of the slate, with a record of 3-2. The stretch isn’t over yet; it ends after Villanova comes to Milwaukee, but we now know that they can win games they’re not likely to win. I said after the Xavier game that losses like that are fine in a vacuum, but to make the tournament they at least need to show the ability to win tough games. It’s a lot harder for the selection committee to wonder if a team can win a game against a top tier opponent when they already have done that. That coveted tough win to set them over the top of other bubble teams can be checked off as long as Seton Hall continues to play like I think they can.

Now comes the genre of game that really fascinates me: the game that occurs right after an extreme one. I also said after the Eastern Illinois boner that it seems like a team can’t play worse than that because they essentially can’t. The opposite is true of the game from Tuesday. Marquette likely can’t play better than they did against Seton Hall and almost certainly won’t. I really don’t think momentum exists on a game-to-game basis (read: Game 6 of the 2017 World Series), so the result of the Tuesday game only matters in that it is a necessary piece of the puzzle that is the 2018 season. All this is to say that the Seton Hall victory does not necessarily equate to a Butler win. It does, however, raise our expectation a little bit for how this team should perform over the rest of the season and Butler is a very good test for how accurate our expectations are. Let’s hope this doesn’t end in a play designed for a Katin Reinhardt turnaround baseline jumper again.

One more thing. Get these Friday night games allllll the way out of here. Friday nights are for going out for a nice dinner to convince yourself you have a social life and settling into your couch to watch Siena vs Marist or something to prepare yourself for a whole Saturday of basketball. A break from stressful games is very necessary. Going too hard for the whole week will leave you with a major basketball hangover. Try to let yourself relax after the game ends. Self care is important, almost as important as hydration.

Current KenPom/T-Rank Rankings

Butler: #40/#34

Marquette: #39/#45

Butler Stat Leaders

Points: Kelan Martin, 19.2 PPG

Offensive Rebound Percentage: Tyler Wideman, 13.8% (This is 55th in the country)

Defensive Rebound Percentage: Kelan Martin, 19.2% (307th in the country). I am thoroughly shook right now. Kelan Martin’s defensive rebounding percentage exactly matches his points per game. These two have absolutely no relation to each other, so this isn’t crazy in the sense that Barry Bonds was intentionally walked 120 times just in 2004; more in the sense that Cecil Fielder and Prince Fielder hit the exact same amount of home runs in their careers.

Assist Rate: Aaron Thompson, 22.1% (321st in the country)

Marquette Stat Leaders

Points: Markus Howard, 22.8 PPG

Offensive Rebound Percentage: Harry Froling, 12.% (He’s not qualified, but that number would be like 80th in the country if he were)

Defensive Rebound Percentage: Harry Froling, 24.3% (Same Situation, he’d be 70th if he were qualified)

Assist Rate: Andrew Rowsey, 25% (207th in the country)

Marquette Last 10 Games: 7-3

Butler Last 10 Games: 6-4 and they’re on a three game losing streak. You know who isn’t on a three game losing streak? Coppin State. So they’re better than Butler and Marquette should destroy them, right?

All Time Series: Butler leads, 20-17. That 9 game winning streak Butler had between 1924 and 1937 really came back to bite us.

Current Streak: Butler has won the last 3 games.

Who wants to share dark moments of our past? I’ll start. The first time I came to Milwaukee was to visit Marquette in my junior year of high school. On the return flight home, my dad and I made our way to the gate and in the little pizza restaurant in Terminal C (Shoutout to all my Southwest flyers) I caught the last 10 seconds of the Marquette/Butler game in Maui where Rotnei Clarke hit the dumbest buzzer beater I’ve ever seen. DM me (@bensnider94) with your darkest childhood moment and I’ll share the funniest ones in my next article.

Tell Me Less Depressing Things About Butler. And I Swear To God If There’s A Clue Refere-

The butler did it! Play a half a season’s worth of basketball, that is.

I really don’t know why they’re always good. I was so sure that this would be the year that I finally get a break from them. Coming into the season they had

  • A new coach
  • One really good player in Kamar Baldwin needing to transition into a point guard role
  • A couple decent upperclassmen in Martin and Wideman and...
  • Not much else.

I thought they’d be disoriented this year but they’ve proven to at least be a fairly stable tournament contender this year.

I wanted there to be a better transition than this, but has there ever been a player in any sport to go through the transition that Gordon Hayward made? He went from “It sure would be swell if I took you to the prom” to “2:30 AM ‘Comw ovr’ text” in less than a decade. Truly remarkable.

Butler’s offensive style is similar to Seton Hall’s in that they want to get it to their bigs. Tyler Wideman in particular has been really efficient, making 70% of his shots. Kelan Martin will likely be their main focal point, though, given the mismatches he normally causes being 6’7” and 220 pounds with the ability to shoot (kind of) and drive. If you recall one of last year’s 786 disastrous Marquette collapses, Martin helped lead a second half charge in Hinkle Fieldhouse and finished 9-11 from inside the arc. As a team, they shoot threes like every Marquette team in history before 2016 shot threes: poorly.

Kamar Baldwin does not appear to be handling the transition to point guard extraordinarily well. If you recall Tyler Lewis, last year’s Butler point guard and pretty much a perfect prototype of what you want a point guard to be, he was particularly good at feeding Kamar. Baldwin was hitting 70% of his shots at the rim, but about a quarter of them came off assists. Now he’s at 58% with a fifth on assists. “A fifth on assist” could be the new teen slang for when you get alcohol for your high school party.

Three pointers have had an even steeper drop off for Baldwin. Last year he made 37% of his bombs with 83% off assists, this year he’s hitting 30% with 72% off assists. His personal assist numbers are at 16.5%, which is just above average for all players, and it’s met with a 16% turnover rate. The turnovers are solid on their own, but essentially for every assist he makes, he coughs it up. For context, the difference between Andrew Rowsey assist and turnovers rates is 7.5, which I consider to be a solid difference.

Freshman Aaron Thompson is probably their long term point guard, but he turns it over enough to make Georgetown blush. His 26.5% turnover rate is in the 92nd percentile (that’s bad) of the country. He turns it over more than Michigan State’s Jaren Jackson, who dribbles the ball as if he just handled a greased pig at the county fair.

“Nice,” says the reader. “Just press them all the time,” shouts the brute. “Away from me you ignoramus,” I command. No one else on the team turns it over much, particularly Kelan Martin. Marquette’s defensive strategy will be another heavy dose of trying to keep them out of the paint and hope that Sean “Somehow Not Related To Doug Or Greg” McDermott (42%) doesn’t randomly start hitting threes.

The only game of Butler’s that I really watched was their loss to Purdue in Indianapolis. During that game, they’d just let Dakota Mathias and Carsen “Somehow Not Related To Vincent” Edwards dribble right by them and everyone else on the team would freak out like dribbling inside the three point line was worth points. Since it’s not, Purdue would just pass inside to the literal human mountain Isaac Haas or to a wide open three point shooter. They forced a good amount of turnovers, but didn’t do much else. Looking at their defensive numbers, I see not much has changed. They let opponents shoot a ton of threes and don’t offer that much resistance inside the paint. They will try to turn you over, but as we learned on Tuesday, that shouldn’t be too much of an issue for Marquette.

I could probably just copy and paste this paragraph into every single preview I do this year and you’d have no idea. Hell, maybe this is a copy/paste from a previous article and you just don’t know. This would create an infinite chain of copied paragraphs, though, since it references a previous copied paragraph. Fine, it’s not copied. Whoever can be the least bad on defense will win. Andrew Rowsey, Markus Howard and Sam Hauser will all get open threes. Wideman and Martin will get easy buckets. Hopefully Greg Elliott can follow up his defensive performance against Khadeen Carrington and stop those drives from Baldwin and Thompson. If that happens, those Butler fans will be so pissed off they might change the name of their home arena to Tinkle Fieldhouse. *waits for applause that has a 0% chance of coming*