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#11 Marquette Basketball Preview Primer: vs Butler Bulldogs

Home stretch for the Golden Eagles begins here, and the Big East regular season title is on the line.

NCAA Basketball: Utah at Butler Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

#11 Marquette Golden Eagles (21-4, 10-2 Big East) vs Butler Bulldogs (15-11, 6-7 Big East)

Date: Wednesday, February 20, 2019
Time: 8pm Central
Location: Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee, WI

Marquette Stats Leaders

Points: Markus Howard, 25.6 ppg
Rebounds: Sam Hauser, 6.8 rpg
Assists: Markus Howard, 4.1 apg

Marquette Injury Note: Late in MU’s last game, the road trip to DePaul, Sam Hauser got poked in the right eye pretty badly. It was whistled as a foul, and after the refs gave Hauser a chance to recover a little bit, he surprisingly easily canned both of his free throws, as you could already see a bruise forming as well as a pretty notable amount of swelling. He also then immediately exited the game and did not return. On his radio show last week, which clearly had a pre-recorded segment outside of the live show from Dave & Buster’s in Wauwatosa, head coach Steve Wojciechowski was asked about Hauser by Steve “The Homer” True. Wojo seemed to have absolutely no worry about Sam missing any time, and in fact said that the bye week/break since last week Tuesday could not have come at a better time in regards to Hauser’s eye. I presume that means he’ll be starting as usual, but it still might be a game time decision.

Butler Stats Leaders

Points: Kamar Baldwin, 17.5 ppg
Rebounds: Kamar Baldwin, 5.0 rpg
Assists: Aaron Thompson, 4.2 apg

Current KenPom.com Rankings

Marquette: #26
Butler: #51
KenPom Projection: Marquette has a 75% chance of victory, with a predicted score of 76-69.

Earlier This Season: The Golden Eagles picked up their first win at Hinkle Fieldhouse since 1990. That’s a little misleading, as the two sides did not play at all between 1991 and that one time that Rotnei Clarke hit that shot in Maui, but MU’s win did snap a losing streak at Hinkle since The Reformation. Outside of a setback midway through the second half where Butler trimmed a 17 point Marquette lead to just six points with 10 minutes left, it was pretty much all Golden Eagles as they got the 76-58 victory. Markus Howard had 32 points on 14-for-23 shooting and added five rebounds and an assist, while Sacar Anim added 14 and Sam Hauser had 19. The Golden Eagles induced Kamar Baldwin into a 5-for-15 evening to help pave the way.

Since We Last Met: Well, Butler’s actually been on a hot streak of sorts. They turned around after the loss to MU to edge Seton Hall at home and then got a four point win on the road against Georgetown. The winning was interrupted by an overtime road loss to St. John’s, but like MU, Butler enters this game following a win over DePaul. That 3-1 punch has them at 6-7 in Big East play and on perhaps the far edge of finding a way into the NCAA tournament.

Tempo Free Fun: First, let’s deal with exactly how Marquette won at Hinkle Fieldhouse earlier this season. It’s the most straightforward story in basketball: They outshot the Bulldogs. Marquette had an effective field goal percentage of 64.7% in that game, largely thanks to an 8-for-16 shooting performance from behind the three-point line, but shooting 60% inside the arc helped, too. On the other end of the court, Butler’s eFG% was just 37.7% with 23% long range shooting and 40% accuracy on two-pointers. Generally speaking, when you get a combined 7-of-12 three-point shooting from Sacar Anim, Markus Howard, and Sam Hauser, things are going to be just fine for you. Conversely, when you create 4-for-19 long range shooting from Kamar Baldwin, Sean McDermott, Aaron Thompson, Jordan Tucker, and Paul Jorgensen, you’re also going to be okay.

We should point out that Marquette was a little too careless with the ball in the first meeting. They finished the game with 16 turnovers, eight in each half, for a game-long turnover rate of 23.5%. As a rule of thumb, once you go over 20% aka one out of five possessions ending in a turnover, you’ve got a problem. To be clear, three of them came in the final five minutes of the game, and the final one was, according to the box score, a team turnover with 22 seconds left. I don’t remember for sure, but that sounds an awful lot like an intentional shot clock violation while up 18. With that said, if you wind off the eight or so possessions back to wipe out those late three turnovers, Marquette still ends up going over that 20% mark, so that’s a problem. It didn’t matter because when Marquette did put shots in the air they mostly went in, but if Butler’s defense is going to cause that kind of havoc again, it’s unlikely that MU can shoot like that again to balance it out.

That’s what happened last time around. Let’s look at Big Picture Stuff. The short version is thus: Marquette’s defense and Butler’s offense should play to a stalemate, while Marquette’s offense should be able to overwhelm Butler’s defense. The Golden Eagles are currently #23 in the country according to KenPom’s offensive efficiency metric and #41 on the defensive side. Switch that up to just looking at Big East games only, and MU is the best defense in the conference, just barely nudging past St. John’s with 102.3 points allowed per 100 possessions, while the offense piles up 110.5 points per 100 possessions, which is first in the “non-Villanova-Death-Sphere” division. It ends up being a positive margin of 8.2 points per 100 possessions, which is pretty great. Butler, on the other hand, is fourth in the Big East in offense and sixth in defense, with a margin of just +0.8 points per 100 possessions.

When Butler has the ball, they’re probably going to keep the ball. Marquette doesn’t force turnovers, and the Bulldogs don’t allow many. The thing to watch is the rebounding. Whether by design or not, Butler has essentially given up at trying for second chance shots, while MU ranks #59 in the country in defensive rebounding rate. Butler had a bit of an advantage in this department in the first go-round, but Marquette’s shooting nullified any advantage the Bulldogs were getting. If we presume that MU can’t shoot like that again, then they can’t let things like “Nate Fowler gets five offensive rebounds” happen again.

I keep saying “Marquette probably can’t shoot like that again” or something similar. MU’s 64.7% eFG% in that game was their third highest of the season. The only two better were the win at Creighton and the North Dakota game. Marquette hasn’t cleared even 64% in any other game this season, and they’ve only cleared 63% in two other games. That’s what I mean when I say that it’s unlikely that the Golden Eagles turn Fiserv Forum into a 200 shot team game of HORSE.

Except..... well..... Butler’s bad at defending shooters. They rank #219 in the country in eFG% defense per KenPom, and they’re #210 in three-point defense and #220 in two-point defense. Given Marquette’s ability to attempt to light the nets on fire in any given game, it’s actually possible if not likely that MU does shoot the holy hell out of the ball..... just maybe not 65%. Butler might rank #6 overall in defensive efficiency in the league, but they’re #8 in eFG% defense, allowing Big East teams to shoot 53.2% against them. Butler is 1-8 this season when they allow a team to put up an eFG% north of 56.3%. The lone win was in their game on Saturday against DePaul and they outshot the Blue Demons in that game because DePaul is one of the two teams worse at shooting defense than Butler. It took Butler’s best offensive efficiency game of the season to overcome their defense in that game. Do you believe that Marquette’s defense can avoid that happening twice in a row? It should, right?

Last thing to cover from a “what’s this game’s deal” perspective. We can’t ignore the fact that St. John’s beat Villanova on Sunday, thus creating a tie in the loss column in the Big East. The Wildcats are 11-2, Marquette is 10-2. There is, of course, one more meeting this season between the two teams, and, as long as both squads get through this week without a loss, the regular season title will essentially be on the line next week Wednesday at Finneran Pavilion. But that means that Marquette has to get there with only two losses. That means a win here is something of a necessity for a Big East regular season title, or at the very least, a necessity to put MU in position to win said title. If you want to look at it big picture, this isn’t must-win in terms of the NCAA tournament, or even seeding in the tournament. If the team has “win the Big East” on their list of goals for the season, though, then it’s prrrrrrrrettttttttty important that they lock up this W while they have a chance.

Marquette Last 10 Games: 9-1, thanks to those jerks at St. John’s.

Butler Last 10 Games: 5-5, with wins in three of their last four.

All Time Series: Marquette is 18-22 all time against Butler.

Current Streak: Marquette won the most recent outing, but that means that Butler has now won “only” seven of the last nine encounters. The Bulldogs won each of the final two encounters at the BMO Harris Bradley Center, which means that Marquette has not won at home against Butler since January 30th, 2016.

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