#18 Marquette Golden Eagles (16-8, 8-5 Big East) at Butler Bulldogs (11-13, 4-9 Big East)
Date: Saturday, February 12, 2022
Time: 3:30pm Central
Location: Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Indiana
Marquette Stats Leaders
Points: Justin Lewis, 16.6 ppg
Rebounds: Justin Lewis, 8.0 rpg
Assists: Tyler Kolek, 6.0 apg
Butler Stats Leaders
Points: Chuck Harris, 10.3 ppg
Rebounds: Bo Hodges, and Bryce Nze, 5.9 rpg
Assists: Aaron Thompson, 4.0 apg
Game Projection: Marquette has a 72% chance of victory, with a predicted score of 68-62.
So Far This Season: Uh, well. Let’s start by saying something nice. Butler beat Oklahoma in Norman back on December 7th. That was good. The Sooners are, at least as of February 8th on Bracket Matrix, in the NCAA tournament picture, and then they beat Texas Tech on the 9th. That’s good. Good for Butler for getting that Quadrant 1 win that’s helping everyone in the Big East right now.
That was, uh, kind of the last time that anything went right for Butler this season. Before that, they had gotten blitzed like hazelnuts by Michigan State, at home nonetheless, and then lost both of their Maui Invitational games that didn’t involve Chaminade. Then they barely squeezed out a win over something called “Saginaw Valley State” before beating the Sooners. That win in Oklahoma moved them to 6-3 and even with the three high major losses previous to that, you could still squint at Butler and think maybe something good was coming along. Even losing by 29 to Purdue in the Crossroads Classic wasn’t even that big of a deal since the Boilermakers had already ascended to #1 in the AP poll before that game happened.
And then Big East play started with a win over DePaul.... and then they beat Georgetown to get to 2-2.... and then they beat Creighton and Georgetown back-to-back to get to 4-6..... and now they’re 4-9 after losing the return bout with the Bluejays. It’s all bad.
Tempo Free Fun: Butler’s offense is completely broken. There’s nothing good going on there. They rank #238 in the country in KenPom’s adjusted metric. #293 in effective field goal percentage, meaning that they’re one of the 70 worst shooting teams in the country. They’re sub-200 in the other three parts of the Four Factors. They’re hitting just 30% of their three-pointers this season, which is a bottom forty in the country number, and to make that as bad as they absolutely positively can, they rank in the top 70 in the country in terms of the volume of threes that they put up. They get blocked on 14% of their shots, which is the fifth worst number in the country, and somewhere, Kur Kuath just got a warm fuzzy feeling and he doesn’t quite know why yet.
I want to go back to the three-pointers. Leading scorer Chuck Harris is if not the problem, then a major part of it. He shoots over five threes a game, and he’s hitting less than 30% of them. In Big East play alone, Harris is shooting just 26% on long range bombs, and he comes into this game on a 2-for-17 run. I get that he shot 40% as a freshman last year, but at some point someone on the coaching staff, especially head coach LaVall Jordan who has presided over two of Butler’s five losing seasons since 1993-94 and is clearly on pace to snag a third, has to be the adult in the room and tell him that it ain’t working.
Marquette is going to have to actually defend Jayden Taylor (41% on three per game) and Bryce Golden (40% on 1.9 per game) when they’re eyeing the rim from behind the arc. Other than that? I mean, sure, keep tabs on Bo Hodges, who is hitting 33% since he made his season debut on January 13th, but he’s a career 29% shooter so that feel very “regress to mean”-ish to me. Everyone else? Don’t even bother defending them until they hit one. Seriously. Everyone else on the team is under 30%. Jair Bolden is shooting an absolutely reprehensible 24% on long range shots this season, and the Butler coaching staff lets him shoot three a game. Well, they used to, and their solution to that problem was taking him out of the starting lineup and not playing him. Bolden, who is back for a COVID bonus season this year just like four other seniors for Butler, has played just 22 minutes in BU’s last six games, and that includes two DNP’s.
Butler looks like a vaguely competent defensive team, ranking #72 in the country in KenPom’s adjusted metric. But they’re eighth in raw efficiency in Big East play and giving up over 103 points per 100 possessions against league foes. It would seem that they’re a top 80 defense partly because they play in a great league and partly because they’re really good at getting you to miss three-pointers.
For whatever reason, the Bulldogs are inducing their opponents to shoot just 29.9% from long range this season. Given BU’s problems from long range, that’s incredibly beneficial to them. In theory, that should stop them from getting blown out regularly since teams just don’t shoot them out of the building.
That’s the only thing that Butler does well on defense, though. Teams shoot 52% inside the arc against them — #9 in Big East games only, for what it’s worth — and so teams generally ignore shooting threes against them to take advantage of what BU’s weakness is. They don’t force a lot of turnovers. They’re actually pretty good at preventing offensive rebounds, but that’s completely meaningless against a Marquette team that’s not trying to get a lot, and they send opponents to the line way too much. The fact that they have a bottom 60 in the nation free throw shooting percentage defense — obviously nothing they can do about this — just makes their fouling situation even worse.
I’ll say nice things about Bryce Nze. He’s a top 500 rebounder in terms of rate on both ends of the floor. Given MU’s problems on both ends, he’s probably going to have a field day against the Golden Eagles, unless, y’know, Shaka Smart realizes that Nze’s really the only good rebounder on the team and just focuses on making his life miserable.
Stat Watch: Senior center Kur Kuath has 70 blocks on the season. That is tied for the seventh most blocks by any Marquette player in any season in program history. He’s tied with Theo John’s 2019 season at the moment, and needs six blocks to catch Amal McCaskill in sixth place all time. When Kuath gets past John — and with six regular season games to go, it is when, not if — we will be able to say that Kuath has the most blocks by a Marquette player in 25 years.
Marquette Last 10 Games: 8-2 with losses in two of the last three games.
Butler Last 10 Games: 3-7, with losses in each of their last three games.
All-Time Series: Marquette is 22-23 all time against Butler.
Current Streak: Marquette has won five of the last six meetings in the series and each of the last three, but Butler has won eight of the last 14. Marquette is 2-7 in their last nine trips to Hinkle Fieldhouse dating back to 1991. Last year’s mid-February win there was the second in the last three visits.
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