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Marquette Basketball Preview Primer: vs #19 Butler

The Bulldogs come to Milwaukee for National Marquette Day

Marquette v Butler Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Marquette Golden Eagles (16-6, 6-4 Big East) vs #19 Butler Bulldogs (18-5, 6-4 Big East)

Date: Sunday, February 9, 2020
Time: 11am Central
Location: Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee, WI

Marquette Stats Leaders

Points: Markus Howard, 27.9 ppg
Rebounds: Brendan Bailey, 5.6 rpg
Assists: Koby McEwen & Markus Howard, 3.1 apg

Butler Stats Leaders

Points: Kamar Baldwin, 16.0 ppg
Rebounds: Bryce Nze, 6.7 rpg
Assists: Aaron Thompson, 4.9 apg

KenPom Rankings

Marquette: #30
Butler: #16
KenPom Projection: Marquette has a 57% chance of victory, with a predicted score of 72-70.

Last Time Out: Hooboy. Yeah, this was the game that Steve Wojciechowski forgot the score in and called for Brendan Bailey to foul while the game was tied. Two things about that: Kamar Baldwin had scored on the previous three possessions for the Bulldogs, turning a 68-62 Marquette lead into a 68-68 tie. You can actually make the argument that forcing Baldwin to hit two free throws with 20 seconds left to put his team up two was a more advantageous situation for the Golden Eagles than trying to defend him on a fourth straight possession, and that’s before taking into account the fact that Baldwin actually split the freebies. Of course, that would also indicate a galaxy brain level of coaching from Wojciechowski that should have led to a shot coming down the other way other than “Markus Howard just stands around for a few seconds and then hucks it from 25 feet,” but that’s what Marquette got on the ensuing possession while down one. Yay.

Luckily, Koby McEwen bailed the entire enterprise out with a three-pointer with two seconds left. Unfortunately, Butler scored twice in the first minute of overtime, and thus MU was playing from behind the eight ball for the next four. Butler went up as many as eight in the extra session and Marquette still nearly pulled it out, getting two triples from McEwen (he only hit threes in this game in the final five minutes and five seconds of actual game play) followed by one from Sacar Anim to make it a 1 point game with 27 seconds left, but MU didn’t have anything left in their bag of tricks after that.

Since Last We Met: Well, it turns out that win over Marquette snapped Butler out of a funk. They came in with three straight losses to fall to 3-3 in Big East play after starting out the year 12-1. They’ve now won three of the last four, counting their encounter with Marquette, although a 65-61 home loss to Providence was a weird result. It was made even more win by their 79-76 victory over Villanova back on Wednesday night.

Marquette on the other hand has been on the struggle bus ever since that game, or including that game if you want to think about it that way. It took them two overtime sessions to beat Xavier in Cincinnati, although MU was without Markus Howard from the 12 minute mark of the second half. Then, last Saturday, Marquette looked very not good against DePaul and only managed to pull out in front of the Blue Demons in the final few minutes for the 76-72 victory. Wheee!

Tempo Free Fun: Okay, so look. For 37 minutes and 30 seconds in Indianapolis, Marquette had Kamar Baldwin in the clamps. 4-for-12 shooting, 0-for-3 from long range, 4-for-4 from the charity stripe. They had made it 94% of the way through a regulation game, and they had held Butler’s leading scorer to 78% of his normal scoring output 1) on a horrible shooting day for him and 2) without his starting point guard.

This was 94% of a fantastic job. It was not 100% of a fantastic job. Kamar Baldwin then spent the next 2 minutes and 30 seconds of regulation and all five minutes of overtime absolutely torturing Marquette: 6-for-9 from the field, with one of the misses coming from long range, and 7-for-9 from the charity stripe. First 37:30: 12 points. Last 7:30: 19 points.

That’s really bad. You can talk about a bunch of different things about why Marquette lost this game, because that’s the kind of thing you can do when a team has a nine point lead with just under 14 minutes left and they still lose. Let’s be clear about this: Marquette had the opportunity to slam the door shut on Butler, lock the door, turn the deadbolt, find some spare 2x6s, hammer them into place over the door, move the sofa over to the door, and tip the sofa up onto its end and lean it against the door. They did not do that, which is why Kamar Baldwin said, “oh, hey, look, that door is open,” and he just waltzed right on in and ruined Marquette’s whole deal. What happened between the clock reading 14:00 and the clock reading 2:30 in the second half is much more the reason why Marquette lost than Kamar Baldwin going crazy for seven minutes, because he never should have had the chance to get the extra five minutes anyway.

Unfortunately, The Kamar Baldwin Show did happen, so Marquette now has to play Butler again and the Bulldogs are aware that they can just let Baldwin do that over and over and over and over and over to Marquette and the Golden Eagles can’t do anything about it. That’s really bad! The good news is that Greg Elliott will be back in the lineup for Marquette in this game, at least we presume he will be. Elliott missed six straight games, including the Butler game, after suffering an ankle injury against Providence. Up to that point, he had played in every game this season, getting at least 12 minutes of burn in every contest. Against DePaul, he got seven. Slightly concerning, of course, but he’s also had another week to heal up since then. The point of all of this is that Elliott gives Marquette another backcourt option to throw against Baldwin that they did not have last time. I say this because I keep forgetting myself: Baldwin is only 6’1”. Elliott is 6’3” on your scorecard, and he is a lanky 6’3” at that. It’s possible that the lanky defense of Elliott is a much better deterrent for Baldwin than the more muscular options of 6’4” Koby McEwen or 6’5” Sacar Anim.

While Marquette will have Greg Elliott at their disposal in this game, Butler will have Aaron Thompson back in the lineup. The 6’2” junior from Maryland missed the Marquette game with a wrist injury and then missed the next two as well. Butler squeaked past Marquette and squeaked past Georgetown on the road without Thompson, and then lost at home to Providence in a squeaker as well. Earlier this week, Thompson returned to the the starting lineup, pitching in nine points, a rebound, and two assists in a four-foul 25 minute performance. That’s not up to par for what he’s capable of, particularly in the passing department. Thompson currently ranks #122 in the country in assist rate and his best KenPom.com comparison is Ohio State’s Aaron Craft from a year where the Buckeyes won the Big Ten and went to the Final Four. Thompson’s presence on the floor radically alters who and what the Bulldogs are, as the Villanova game resulted in BU’s best T-Rank Gamescore since their three game slide in league play started.

Let’s talk big picture stuff. This game is going to be decided by which team’s offense takes the biggest advantage of the other side’s defense. We’re just past the halfway point in Big East play for both teams, so the league-only rankings on KenPom.com are starting to be very serious and real pictures of what a team is against their most common and familiar opponents. Butler is ranked #8 in defensive efficiency, Marquette is ranked #9. Butler is #5 on the offensive side, Marquette is #2.

That would seem to imply a significant advantage for Marquette, as they’re the team with the better offense to start with. However, Butler’s strength as a defensive team comes in effective field goal defense, where they’re only allowing teams to shoot 46.1%, the second best mark in the conference. That sounds like a problem for the Golden Eagles, who are a very good shooting team, but it’s not entirely one. Butler makes their bones as a two-point shooting defense, which is the best in the Big East. Marquette’s objectively not good at shooting twos this season, but they’re lightning great at shooting threes. To wit: The Golden Eagles shot 16-for-38 (42%) from long range at Hinkle Fieldhouse to propel them to a 53.6% effective field goal percentage. Here’s how good of a shooting performance that was: That game is Marquette’s only loss this season when their eFG% is north of 50%.

If Marquette can take advantage of a friendly home environment and friendly home rims to knock down their shots, they should be able to have the advantage in terms of which offense can run more rampant on the opposing defense in this game. It’s probably not going to be easy, because nothing in the Big East ever is. But...... win, and Marquette probably gets a little number next to their name come Monday afternoon. More importantly, win and it’s Marquette’s best Quad 1 win of the year.

Marquette Last 10 Games: 6-4, with wins in five of their last six and the loss in the last six was at Butler.

Butler Last 10 Games: 6-4, with wins in three of their last four games.

All Time Series: Marquette is 19-23 all time against Butler.

Current Streak: After Butler’s win at Hinkle Fieldhouse earlier this season, the Bulldogs have won eight of the previous 11 games between the two. However, Butler has never won at Fiserv Forum.

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@ButlerWay - our favorite independent Butler site
@BenSteeleMJS - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel MU beat writer