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Marquette Basketball Big East Preview Primer: at Butler Bulldogs

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Hey, these guys again.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round-Purdue Boilermakers vs Butler Bulldogs Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Marquette Golden Eagles (9-12, 5-10 Big East) at Butler Bulldogs (7-11, 6-9 Big East)

Date: Wednesday, February 17, 2021
Time: 5:30pm Central
Location: Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Indiana

Marquette Stats Leaders

Points: D.J. Carton, 12.9/game
Rebounds: Dawson Garcia, 6.7/game
Assists: D.J. Carton, 3.4/game

Marquette Injury Notes: Freshman forward Oso Ighodaro is listed as out for this game with a leg injury. He played 10 minutes in the first meeting for only his second appearance in Big East play this season. Freshman forward Justin Lewis is listed as questionable, but he was also listed as questionable when he did not play in either of the past two games.

Butler Stats Leaders

Points: Bo Hodges, 11.4/game
Rebounds: Bo Hodges, 8.2/game
Assists: Aaron Thompson, 4.8/game

KenPom.com Rankings

Marquette: #86
Butler: #114
Game Projection: Butler has a 51% chance of victory, with a predicted score of 66-65.

The Stakes: Cards on the table here. Marquette has lost three straight games and six of the last seven. The win in there was against Butler. KenPom.com says that Marquette is not favored here, nor are they favored against Connecticut or Xavier down the stretch. MU is favored on the road against DePaul in the second to last game of the season, but just barely and also DePaul proved that they can beat Marquette already this year. While they are not favored in this game, it is a winnable game for the Golden Eagles and they do not have many of those remaining on the schedule. This season is already a disaster on multiple levels, so while a win here is not fixing anything, it would definitely be nice to see the squad take care of business.

Last Time Out: It was the reason for your most recent memory of Marquette winning a basketball game as the Golden Eagles defeated the Bulldogs, 70-67, back on February 2nd. It was a very stupid ending to the game, as the Golden Eagles led by 17 with 10 minutes left and by 14 with five minutes left, but as you can see, they only won by three at the final horn. In fact, they were still up nine with exactly 60 seconds left.... and Jair Bolden missed a three to tie the game at the buzzer. No, seriously.

Since Last We Met: Well, things have gone better for Butler in the three games that they’ve played since the 2nd. They turned around and won their next game, beating DePaul at home (yes, you’re allowed to do that, who knew) by 10 and then went to overtime with St. John’s and prevailed by three. That snapped a six game winning streak by the Johnnies, so it was a pretty big deal. Of course, Butler then flushed all that good karma by going out to Georgetown and losing by 15 on Saturday. That game was basically never close as the Hoyas jumped out to leads of 13-4, 29-12, and 46-24.

Tempo Free Fun: As much of a disaster as the final five minutes of the game was, Marquette did an awful lot right in the first 35 minutes to be winning very easily against Butler in the first meeting. There’s some good news and some bad news from that in terms of coming away from a second meeting with a victory.

Let’s start with bad news. Marquette put up a 67% effective field goal percentage in that game as they missed a grand total of seven two pointers in the entire game. MU went 0-3 in the final five minutes of the game, which means that the Golden Eagles shot 20-for-24 inside the arc up to that point. Up until the final five minutes of the game, Theo John, Dawson Garcia, and D.J. Carton combined to shoot 11-for-11. This is all bad news because it’s unlikely almost to the point of impossibility that Marquette does this again, even though Butler currently ranks #250 in the country and dead last in the Big East in two-point attempt defense. The Bulldogs are bad, but they’re only averaging letting teams shoot 52% against them. Another 40 minutes of 74% is probably not going to happen. To put it another way: The second worst defensive two-point performance by Butler this season was 63% on the road against Providence, and the Bulldogs have allowed just one team to shoot better than 60% on twos against them at home. Butler doesn’t have the shot blocking threat that Seton Hall’s Ike Obiagu presented, so MU can be free to try to take a metric ton of twos, but expecting the same success is a poor plan.

Marquette is going to have to find another way to win. They might be able to lean on their three-point shooting a little bit more, as they only took 12 attempts in the first meeting and only shot 33%. Butler’s not particularly great at defending three-pointers either, both in terms of shooting percentage and how often they let teams shoot them, so that is a potential avenue for success.

The biggest thing for Marquette to worry about in this game in terms of generating offense is turnovers. In Meeting #1, the Golden Eagles coughed the ball up on over 30% of all possessions in the game. 21 possessions in a 67 possession game were literally thrown away. Thanks to the incredibly healthy shooting, MU still scored over a point per possession even with nearly a third of the game being wasted. Cut the turnovers down to 20%, and you suddenly get seven extra attempts to shoot. Make even three of them, and that’s somewhere between six and nine free points for the Golden Eagles to rummage up here.

I want to make this clear: Marquette’s turnover problem in the first meeting was 100% their own fault. Butler’s a middle of the pack defensive turnover rate team, both nationally and within the Big East. Sure, that can account for some of them, but not a third of the game. Koby McEwen can not — repeat, can not — turn the ball over EIGHT TIMES again. His eighth and final turnover of the game was the most egregious of all of them, because it came with 20 seconds left and Marquette leading by five. Butler set up in a trapping pressing inbounds defense after Bo Hodges made two free throws. MU inbounded it to McEwen in the corner, and he immediately turtled up with the ball. He essentially begged the referee to call for a jump ball tie up instead of a foul, and because the possession arrow favored the Bulldogs, they got the ball back and Jair Bolden made a three to pull it within two points.

Awful. There’s no way around it. Awful behavior, because merely standings upright and pivoting with the ball draws a foul because Butler was clearly ready to give the foul. Awful awareness because you can turtle up all you want if the possession arrow favors you because it wastes time until the ref calls for the tie up.

Marquette turning the ball over on 28% of possessions in the first half was obscured by the fact that they were up 12. Since they finished at 31%, the second half was obviously much much much worse than 28%. Five of their 12 turnovers in the second half came in the final five minutes as the lead was evaporating. For 15 minutes, they were kind of okay maybe better than the first half. Then they were worse than ever. Two of McEwen’s turnovers came in the final 90 seconds. This can not happen again. Can. Not.

I can’t even really say that there’s anything that Marquette needs to focus on stopping on defense. There’s nothing that Butler did on offense that was particularly notable other than do their damnedest to take advantage of the wide open door that the Golden Eagles opened for them late in the game. Jair Bolden was 3-for-8 from long distance before hitting the one after McEwen’s tieup snafu and missing the one at the buzzer in the final 20 seconds. That’s not anything particularly notable for a 36% shooter. MU will have to watch out for Chuck Harris shooting threes, though. The freshman was 4-for-5 from long range in Milwaukee and he was 3-for-3 in the first 30 minutes of the game. MU kind of skated past that being a problem given that Harris’ third triple of the game cut MU’s lead to 14 with just under 10 minutes to go. Harris is shooting 40% from distance on the season and 42% against Big East teams, so it’s definitely possible that he’ll have a good night again.

In fact, Marquette probably has to be wary of Bo Hodges not being as bad as he was against them the first time around. He went 3-for-10 from inside the arc and 2-for-3 outside it. That’s not even bad, maybe more a bit unlucky than anything else, and the long range shooting helps make that effective field goal percentage look okay.

Marquette Last 10 Games: 3-7, with losses in the last three games. One of the three wins was against Butler in Milwaukee, and that was the only win in the last seven games.

Butler Last 10 Games: 4-6, with a loss on Saturday to Georgetown ending a two game winning streak.

All-Time Series: Marquette is 21-23 all time against Butler.

Current Streak: Marquette has won four of the last five meetings in the series, but Butler has won eight of the last 13. Marquette is 1-7 in their last eight trips to Hinkle Fieldhouse dating back to 1991. The win came in 2019, and it took Marquette being ranked #10 in the country to do it.

Follow Along On Twitter

@AnonymousEagle - Hey, that’s us!
@MarquetteMBB - Official MU account
@ButlerMBB - Official Butler account
@becb_sbn - our SB Nation friends that follow the whole Big East
@ButlerWay - our favorite independent Butler site
@BenSteeleMJS - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel MU beat writer