Marquette Golden Eagles (8-9, 4-7 Big East) vs Butler Bulldogs (5-9, 4-7 Big East)
Date: Tuesday, February 2, 2021
Time: 4pm Central
Location: A very empty Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Marquette Stats Leaders
Points: Dawson Garcia, 12.6/game
Rebounds: Dawson Garcia, 7.1/game
Assists: D.J. Carton, 3.6/game
Butler Stats Leaders
Points: Jair Bolden, 12.6/game
Rebounds: Bryce Nze, 8.4/game
Assists: Aaron Thompson, 3.8/game
Game Projection: Marquette has a 67% chance of victory, with a predicted score of 67-62.
Tempo Free Fun: For those of you keeping score at home, things have gone very very sideways on Marquette this season. We are now at the point where there’s no reason to discuss MU’s NCAA tournament hopes. Sunday’s loss to St. John’s is a Quadrant 3 loss, and that’s after the loss to DePaul that has yet once again drifted back to being a Quadrant 4 loss. You can squeak yourself into the tournament if you have lots of Q1 and Q2 losses. When you start taking Q3 and Q4 losses, that’s a wrap for you.
Worse than that, we’re now at the point where we have to honestly discuss how many games Marquette can actually win down the stretch. They have eight games scheduled after the Big East added in their road game against Villanova on Monday. KenPom.com only has Marquette favored in four of those games. But, after watching the last three games, as well as the pretty disastrous ways that Marquette has lost games before that this season, do you actually think that 4-4 is the likely outcome of these final eight games?
I don’t know whether it’s a failure by the coaching staff to prepare for opponents, or a failure to properly deploy the talent that they have on the roster, or a failure by the players to properly execute well thought out game plans. Maybe it’s a little bit of all of that, maybe it’s a combination of all of that. It’s left us at a point where we can’t even say “well, heck, they’d better be able to beat a team struggling as bad as Butler” because 1) Butler’s not the worst team in the Big East and 2) Marquette already lost at home to the worst team in the league.
So that’s where we are. A whole bunch of throwing our hands up in the air as fans and saying “I don’t know what’s going to happen and I have no control over what happens anyway, so what am I supposed to do?”
Onwards to actual basketball scouting things.
While nothing is for sure with this team as the loss to DePaul proved, this does appear to be a favorable matchup for Marquette. Butler is the second least efficient offense in the Big East per KenPom.com, coming in ahead of only — wait for it — DePaul. In theory, and boy is that phrase doing some heavy lifting here, it shouldn’t be that big of a deal that Marquette is the least efficient defense in the conference this season because they shouldn’t be pushed that hard by whatever it is that LaVall Jordan has his guys doing.
The two best things that they do on offense are 1) Not turn it over (ha ha, Marquette won’t try to stop them) and 2) shoot threes. They’re not good at shooting threes, though, connecting on just 33% as a team overall and just under 33% in league play. It appears BU’s biggest problem is that the wrong guys are shooting threes. Jair Bolden leads the team in attempts with 105 and he hits 38%. That’s good. Bryce Nze (38%) and Chuck Harris (39%) also appear to be quality shooters, just without that many attempts. Bryce Golden (21%) and Myles Tate (30%) appear to be shooting too much for what they’re actually accomplishing every time it leaves their hands. Marquette struggles with letting teams shoot too many threes, so I think the key here for the Golden Eagles is knowing who they can let stand around and shoot and who they have to cover like wrapping paper at a birthday party.
Everything else on Butler’s offensive end works for Marquette. They don’t rebound their own misses, they don’t shoot well inside the arc, they get shots blocked too much (hello, Theo John), and they don’t make their free throws on the rare occasion when they actually go to the line.
At a glance, the matchup on the other end appears to be pretty even, with KenPom ranking Marquette as the #65 offense in the country and Butler as the #64 defense. But the Bulldogs appear to be skating by on being ultra great at limiting you to one shot and also not letting you shoot free throws. Butler is the #8 defensive rebounding rate team in the country, led by Bryce Nze ranking #49 in the individual category department.
The problem here is that Butler’s taking the ball out of the net an awful lot. #282 in effective field goal defense while allowing opponents to hit 37% of their threes and 52% of their twos. That’s really awful stuff, even if three-point shooting defense is almost more luck night in and night out than anything else. Marquette’s shooting is a strength, as much as anything they do on offense can be a strength this season, so if the Golden Eagles can work to take the best shots that they can, then they should be able to make enough of them to win.
In theory — and there’s that phrase that we have to use to play guessing games with this team again — MU’s biggest offensive flaw won’t be a problem against the Bulldogs. Butler isn’t quite as allergic to forcing turnovers as Marquette’s defense is, but they’re up there. That should be good news for Marquette, who knew that St. John’s was going to try to create turnovers on Sunday, but only coughed it up on 17% of possessions across 40 minutes. If that kind of smart ballhandling shows up against Butler, that percentage probably drops to 16% or 15% because Butler just won’t be trying as much as the Red Storm was.
Marquette Last 10 Games: 3-7, with losses in the last three games.
Butler Last 10 Games: 4-6, with losses in their last two games.
All-Time Series: Marquette is 20-23 all time against Butler.
Current Streak: Marquette has won three of the last four meetings, but Butler has won eight of the last 12 encounters between the two teams. Butler has never won at Fiserv Forum.
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@BenSteeleMJS - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel MU beat writer