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Marquette Women’s Basketball Preview: at Butler Bulldogs

The Golden Eagles take to the road for a nationally televised contest.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NOV 25 Western Michigan at Butler Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

I’d like to take a second to preemptively take the blame when she has a very quiet game against the Bulldogs, but can we talk about how awesome Chloe Marotta has been in Marquette women’s basketball’s last two games?

Up through Game #8 of the year, Marotta had not broken double digits in scoring this season. She hadn’t attempted a three-pointer. Then, an 11/14/7 outing against St. John’s as Marquette bounced back from an ugly looking loss just two days earlier, and a 21/7/4 against Georgetown last time out where she shot 10-for-11 from the field including connecting on her only three-point attempt of the season so far and just her ninth attempt in her college career. Marotta has an effective field goal percentage of 85.3% in her last 57 minutes of action. She’s had two of her five best rebounding games of the season. She set a career high in assists against the Red Storm, and her four helpers against the Hoyas still counted for a third of MU’s assists while she was on the floor.

Megan Duffy’s team is winning with defense this season, that’s clear. You have to win with defense these days when you know you’re not good enough to shoot a lot of three-pointers. Even Marquette’s outstanding offensive rebounding (#12 in the country in rate per HerHoopStats.com) counts as defense to a certain extent because that’s still a kind of prevention taken against the other team.

But if Chloe Marotta is having things come together for her.... if she’s turning into a reliable second option behind Selena Lott.... if she’s able to help facilitate the offense from her wing/forward position.... if she’s able to turn in top 500 rebound rates on both ends of the floor like she is so far this season.... then everything starts going smoother for Marquette on the offensive end. If a team that’s winning with defense suddenly unlocks an extra ability level on the offensive end, that just makes the defense a little bit more effective because opposing offenses start feeling the pressure to keep up, and that can lead to an extra mistake or two per game.

It’s only one attempt this season, but I’m curious about Marotta’s ability and Duffy’s interest in Marotta shooting more three-pointers. Selena Lott is clearly the best long range option on the squad at 45% on nearly four attempts per game. But Marquette doesn’t have any other real threats out there, even though Liza Karlen is actually hitting at a slightly higher rate on 1.4 attempts per game. No one else on the roster should be shooting threes at all this year, with Jordan King down at 18% and Claire Kaifes at 26%. Both of them are attempting more than three per game, and they’re not even connecting on one of those per night.

Marquette gets a lot of offense through give and go cuts, either from the wing or the high post. That’s why Marquette ranks eighth in the country in assists per game, 14th in the country in assist rate, and #47 in the country in assist-to-turnover ratio. They have to be crafty about how they get there, though, because they just don’t have the shooters to really spread the floor. Defenses are more than happy to sag off of King or Kaifes or really anyone other than Lott. If Marotta can reliably hit threes — 3-for-9 for her career now, 2-for-4 in the past two seasons — then Marquette needs to explore getting her those looks. If Marquette’s best five is their starting five, then that means Marotta’s a wing on this team next to Lauren Van Kleunen and Camryn Taylor in the posts. Big picture, wings are at their most effective when they’re hitting outside shots. If if if if that’s a thing that Marotta can do reliably and comfortably.... then Marquette just might be able to find an extra gear to work with down the stretch of the season.

Big East Game #7: at Butler Bulldogs (1-10, 1-9 Big East)

Date: Sunday, January 24, 2021
Time: 1pm Central
Location: Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Indiana
Television: FS1
Streaming: FoxSportsGo.com
Live Stats: Stat Broadcast
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWBB

Marquette is 14-9 all time against Butler. The Golden Eagles have won 13 of the past 18 meetings after winning at home last season to split the series with the Bulldogs and snap a two game skid against Butler.

Okay, so let’s just come out and say it: Butler’s awful. They are 1-10 on the year, tacking on a 39 point loss on the road at then-#19 Michigan to their 1-9 Big East record. The Bulldogs are getting outscored by an average of more than 19 points per game in Big East play, although losing by 68 to Connecticut and by 47 to Creighton is making that look a lot worse than it actually is. HerHoopStats.com hasn’t launched their internal ratings for this season yet, but we can see that BU is ranking #315 in points per 100 possessions and #336 in opponents’ points per 100 possessions..... and that kind of draws a picture as to where the Bulldogs are. So does their NCAA NET ranking, where they come in at #305.

Butler’s lone win of the season came back on January 13th when they toppled Georgetown at home, 58-40. That’s the same Georgetown team that defeated Butler 56-45 in the other end of that season series as well as the same Georgetown team that Marquette ran through with little difficulty on Wednesday. That probably bodes well for Marquette’s chances, although the transitive property isn’t perfect.

With all of that said, there are some very real reasons why Butler hasn’t been good this season. For starters, they have just one player who has started all 11 games and only four players who have appeared in all 11 games. I identified four rotation players returning from last year in our season preview, and all four of them have missed time this season. Leading returning scorer and rebounder Oumou Toure has not played at all, Genesis Parker missed the first four games of the season, Upe Atosu missed three recent games but returned last time out against DePaul, and Naira Caceres hasn’t played since the first two games of the year. Merely putting five players on the floor who have familiarity with head coach Kurt Godlevske’s system has been a massive problem for the Bulldogs, and that’s how you end up with results like Butler has been putting up.

Butler doesn’t do anything particularly well, so Marquette would appear to have an advantage across the board in this game. One thing to watch out for, though, is Butler’s propensity to shoot three-pointers. Her Hoops Stats says that they rank #28 in the country in three-point attempt rate, so only 27 teams get a higher percentage of their total shots from behind the three-point line. The problem with this for the Bulldogs is that they’re bad at it. They’re connecting on just 31.7% of their attempts as a team, which ranks 138th in the country. That’s middling, not bad, but when 33% is your efficiency break-even, being under that point isn’t good.

With one exception, everyone shooting more than two three-pointers per game is bad at it. I have no idea why Godlevske is letting Atosu fire off nearly four threes per game when only 20% of them are going in. Same for Parker when it’s nearly eight tries an outing and only 27% going in. It’s a baffling offensive tactic when it’s definitely not the most successful thing they could be doing. The one player that Marquette is going to have to watch out for is Okako Adika. The junior college transfer and Denmark native is leading the team in scoring at 14.6 points per game and is second on the team in rebounding at 6.3 a night. She’s shooting a whopping 48% from beyond the arc this season on 46 attempts. She’s the only one who has started and played every game this season, so those 46 attempts average out to a shade over four tries per game and more than one-third of her shot attempts on the year. She’s second on the team in attempts behind Parker, who has made up for missing four games by way of volume, so it’s clear that Butler is okay with Adika shooting it. Marquette can not let her start getting clean looks from outside because that has the potential to turn into a game long problem for the Golden Eagles.