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RV Marquette Basketball Big East Preview Primer: vs Butler

National Marquette Day sees the Golden Eagles looking for revenge against the Bulldogs at Fiserv Forum

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: FEB 05 St John’s at Butler Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

RV Marquette Golden Eagles (17-10, 9-7 Big East) vs. Butler Bulldogs (13-16, 6-12 Big East)

Date: Saturday, February 26th, 2022
Time: 12pm Central
Location: Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee, Wi

Marquette Stats Leaders

Points: Justin Lewis, 16.6 ppg
Rebounds: Justin Lewis, 8.0 rpg
Assists: Tyler Kolek, 5.9 apg

Butler Stats Leaders

Points: Chuck Harris, 10.8 ppg
Rebounds: Bo Hodges, 6.5 rpg
Assists: Aaron Thompson, 3.9 apg

KenPom.com Rankings

Marquette: #32
Butler: #134
Game Projection: Marquette has a 85% chance at victory, with a predicted score of 75-62.

Last Time Out: Butler 85, Marquette 79. That is a very flattering score for what the game was. Butler jumped out to a 40-19 lead, and, yes, jumped out is the best way to describe it because it all happened in the first 15 minutes of the game. Somehow, Marquette still had a shot to win the game, despite the awful defense and not great first half offense. With just about five minutes left, Tyler Kolek hit a three to cut the lead down to four. Yet, Marquette couldn’t get the job done and steal a win.

Since Last We Met: Overall, not a lot of great stuff recently for the Bulldogs. It’s only been two weeks since they played Marquette, and in that time Butler has a record of 1-3. They followed their win against Marquette with a close away win at DePaul to bring their Big East record up to 6-9. After that game, three straight losses. In the first loss, they got walloped by St. John’s to the tune of 34 points in New York. The second came in a game where they took Providence to overtime at home, who’s surprised? It seems like every game Providence plays these days goes to overtime. In the third, they lost by six at Seton Hall just three days before Saturday’s matchup. That one was a weird one, as Butler led 38-36 with 15 minutes left and trailed 56-40 with a little over six minutes to go. Six points was the final margin, but the Bulldogs absolutely had a chance to get that win at The Rock in the final minute.

Revenge Rematch: Seeing as the first game was Marquette’s worst defensive performance this season by a WIDE margin, there’s definitely some things that can change there. Diving into the numbers from BartTorvik.com, Marquette’s defense in that game would let another average offense score about 127 points in 100 possessions, which is what defensive efficiency measures. That is bad, bad, bad, bad. For context, the next closest game is the most recent game against Creighton where the adjusted defensive efficiency was about 108.

One of Shaka Smart’s biggest sayings for the defense is to play with violence. Whatever that means to you, it didn’t happen in the first matchup. Marquette’s D allowed a near-season-worst (Creighton beat it out last Sunday, so it was the worst at the time it happened) 59.2% effective field goal percentage while Butler was making shots that they normally can’t make. Butler’s eFG% on the season, is 47.7%... literally #279 in the country according to KenPom.com. Our defense wasn’t contesting shots the way that it should have been. A bad shooting team doesn’t need a lot to disrupt their shooting rhythm, so Marquette needs to close out quicker. As I recall, Closeouts is one of the core concepts plastered on the wall of the Al McGuire Center’s practice gym. Turn those open shots into pressured or contested shots, and that shooting percentage should plummet.

Marquette also didn’t force as many turnovers as normal. Just 14.5% of Butler’s possessions ended in turnovers at Hinkle Fieldhouse. That low of a turnover rate isn’t quite unheard of for Marquette, in fact we’ve even won some games with low of a rate. Marquette’s season average is 19% though, so it’s well below the usual for this team. When nothing else is going for you on the defensive end, all you can hope to do is to take away as many possible made shots as you can from the other team. Forcing turnovers is how you do that, and a dedication to the team goal of 32 deflections or more in a game should go a long way towards helping MU secure a win on National Marquette Day.

This game wasn’t just a case of one player going crazy and shooting the lights out, a la Markus Howard. No, no, this was the entire Butler team beating us on the offensive end, one after the other. They had five players in double digits, one other had nine, and they only played seven players. Yikes. Aaron Thompson is the only guy who didn’t attempt a three, and Jayden Taylor (0-3) is the only one of the other six who didn’t make one.

One way to really slow down the scoring is to funnel them into the paint. They’re 224th in two point percentage at 48.5%, AND they’re in third place for teams who get blocked the most. Not in the Big East, in the country. Something that we happen to be pretty good at (see the Stat Watch section below). We straight up block 13% of shots when we’re on defense, that’s good for #34 in the country, and Al knows how many shots are altered by Kur Kuath and Oso Ighodaro merely existing. Forcing them to have to make shots in the paint would doubly work to our benefit. The more that we can disrupt the shooting in the paint, the more aggressive we can be at the three point line, and the more violent our defense can be.

Offensively, we weren’t terrible. We shot an okay 34.5% from three and a pretty good 55.6% from two. The one big difference from the normal offensive style was the assists. We only had eight assists in that game. Tyler Kolek BY HIMSELF has had more assists in a single game four times this season. Not tied with that, more than that. As a team, we assist on a heavy majority of our baskets, especially relative to the rest of the country. 61.3% of our made shots are assisted, which is 13th best in the nation per KenPom, and in that game we only assisted 32% of our baskets. Cut in half.

That’s indicative of a few things. One of the contributing factors was Kolek having a not great game in every respect but scoring. Our ball movement across the board was bad. Normally we have a bit of a tendency to pass to a fault, sending passes around the 3 point line back into defenders. This game saw a lot more Justin Lewis iso plays, he put up 27 points in one of the few bright spots of the game. But, we need to get away from that. We’re at our best when we get Lewis in mismatches, get Kam Jones and Greg Elliott open threes, Kolek in the pick ‘n roll, and Darryl Morsell in the mid-range. All of those things working together make Marquette the best possible offense, and all of those things need better ball movement to happen, particularly three point shooting.

The defense needs to be more violent and the offense needs to move the ball more. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s how we’ve been able to win games and it’s why we haven’t won games recently. Hopefully, a packed Fiserv Forum for National Marquette Day will give enough energy to exorcise some demons... er uh bulldogs, Demons are next Wednesday, and kick off another winning streak to close out the season on a high note.

Stat Watch: Kur Kuath, if by some reason you haven’t heard, is having the seventh best shot blocking season in Marquette’s history. He already has 74 blocks on the season, and needs just two more to tie Amal McCaskill for sixth. If he manages to alter five shots, he will move into a tie for fifth place with THE Jim McIlvaine.

Marquette Last 10 Games: 6-4, with losses in four of the last six.

Butler Last 10 Games: 4-6, with losses in the last three straight.

All Time Series: 22-24 in Butler’s favor

Current Streak: Marquette won both games last season, but Butler won the first game of the series this season to snap a three game MU winning streak. The Golden Eagles have won five of the last seven, but Butler has won nine of the last 15.

Follow Along On Twitter

@AnonymousEagle - Hey, that’s us!
@GunvilleJohn - I wrote this preview!
@MarquetteMBB - Official MU account
@ButlerMBB - Official Butler account
@becb_sbn - our SB Nation friends that follow the whole Big East
@BenSteeleMJS - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel MU beat writer