#6 Marquette Golden Eagles (23-6, 15-3 Big East) at Butler Bulldogs (14-15, 6-12 Big East)
Date: Tuesday, February 28, 2023
Time: 5:30pm Central
Location: Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Indiana
Marquette Stats Leaders
Points: Kam Jones, 15.2 ppg
Rebounds: Oso Ighodaro, 5.9 rpg
Assists: Tyler Kolek, 7.8 apg
Butler Stats Leaders
Points: Jayden Taylor, 13.1 ppg
Rebounds: Manny Bates, 5.7 rpg
Assists: Simas Lukosius, 2.9 apg
Butler Injury Note: Manny Bates has missed the Bulldogs’ last two games after suffering some sort of shoulder injury late in their Valentine’s Day loss to Villanova. If he remains unavailable, then Jalen Thomas is BU’s leading available rebounder at 4.6 per game.
Game Projection: Marquette has a 77% chance of victory with a predicted score of 76-68.
The Stakes: Marquette can clinch an outright Big East title and the #1 seed in the conference tournament with a victory. There’s also the more esoteric idea of “it would look bad to lose after achieving the program’s best Associated Press poll ranking in 45 years.”
Last Time Out: #14 Marquette picked up the 60-52 victory at Fiserv Forum to celebrate National Marquette Day. It was pretty straight forward: Marquette started out up 16-3, Butler went on a 10-0 run to make it a three point game, and then Marquette never let the Bulldogs get closer than that. The Golden Eagles did let a 15 point lead dwindle to just five, 55-50, with 3:30 to go, but they didn’t surrender another field goal to Butler the reset of the way.
Since Last We Met: Things have been.... going well-ish? for Butler? Wins in three of the last five is pretty good considering the loss to Marquette earlier this season was their fifth straight and seventh in the last eight at the time. They squeaked out a two point home win over St. John’s in their next game, then did the same to Xavier after taking an 18-6 lead in the first eight minutes and survived a very weird and stupid ending to lock up the W. Obviously that’s pretty good for a Butler team that’s already guaranteed to finish league play under .500 and might finish with a losing record overall. Losing at Villanova isn’t that big of a deal all things considered.... but losing at home by six to Georgetown absolutely is, even with Manny Bates sidelined. They did bounce back from that to beat DePaul at Wintrust, although it was a one point game and BU did benefit from The DePauling on the Blue Demons’ final possession to hand them the win.
Tempo Free Fun: Things were obviously not going well for Butler as they started off Big East play 3-10 following their loss in Milwaukee. Their record has bounced back a little bit since then, so we have to ask the question: Actually playing better, or just getting wins? That sends us over to Ye Olde BartTorvik.com to filter basketball teams the way that CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish taught us to do. Up through BU’s loss to Marquette and tacking in the next couple of days to give us as much data as possible, Butler was playing like the #114 team in the country while running their record to 11-13 on the year. They were actually a pretty stout defense, ranking #63 in adjusted defensive efficiency — Marquette was only #76 in the same timeframe — but Butler’s offense was a disaster. They ranked #200 in the country per T-Rank, and being sub-300 in both offensive rebounding and how often they got to the free throw line probably had a decent amount of impact on that.
Since then? Butler is #118 in the country with the #294 offense and — well, look at this — the #15 defense in the country. That tracks pretty well to what we saw in Milwaukee, at least on the defensive end, as Butler held the Golden Eagles to what was and still is now their second worst offensive performance of the season. It was just one of four games this year where Marquette scored less than a point per trip down the floor, and only Mississippi State was able to do better than Butler’s 0.913 per possession allowed. Marquette won that game partially because it was also MU’s third best defensive performance of the season. they held the Bulldogs to just 0.79 points per trip largely because Butler threw the ball away on 29% of their possessions. That doesn’t quite line up with how the Bulldogs have been playing since then, as their offensive collapse as of late has mostly been because they just can’t hit the broad side of a barn from behind the three-point line. Since we saw Butler in Milwaukee, they are shooting just 26.7% on three-pointers, and they’re coming off a 3-for-17 outing against DePaul...although they still managed to win that game anyway.
Here’s a question for you: How much does it matter if Manny Bates doesn’t play on Tuesday evening at Hinkle Fieldhouse? There’s an argument that it’s perhaps a good thing for Butler. I know, missing your starting center and leading rebounder shouldn’t be a good thing. However, he only played 24 minutes against Marquette in Milwaukee, he scored just two points on three field goal attempts and never got to the free throw line. He fell short of his season average in rebounds with only four as well. He finished with an Offensive Rating of just 70 in that game according to KenPom, and 100 would be a perfectly cromulent performance. Backup Jalen Thomas wasn’t much better in the other 16 minutes of the game with two points on two shots and four rebounds, but maybe Butler being forced to do something else to get through the game is beneficial.
Where Bates’ absence might be most helpful to Marquette is his defense of Oso Ighodaro. Bates measures in at 6’11” and 240 pounds, and it certainly seems like his size could be partially responsible for Ighodaro’s six turnovers in the first meeting. The rest of his 30 minutes of action was pretty good: 4-for-7 from the field, eight points, five rebounds, four assists, two blocks, and a steal. But if you can take away Ighodaro’s secondary playmaking ability from Marquette — six turnovers is definitely taking that away — then that’s a pretty quick path to limiting MU’s otherwise fireball of an offense. If Butler is going to be forced to go with Thomas in the starting lineup and freshman Connor Turnbull backing him up against Ighodaro, that seems like advantage to Marquette.
Turnovers in general have to be an area of concern for Marquette in this game. The Golden Eagles have been one of the most trustworthy offensive teams in the country this season, posting one of the 20 lowest turnover rates in the country, and they’ve gotten even better at that in Big East play. However, against Butler at home, MU coughed it up 13 times in a 66 possession game, or just short of 20% of the time. That’s well over the season average, and yes, half of them were all Oso Ighodaro. But Tyler Kolek (3) and Kam Jones (2) accounted for five of the other seven. Those are MU’s three primary ballhandlers. They can not have another bad outing, especially when Butler only got credit for seven steals in the game. The Golden Eagles shot 56% on two-pointers and a perfectly fine 33% from long distance against the Bulldogs the first time around. They were running them out of the gym in the first seven minutes of the game, and on the possessions where MU actually got a shot up, they scored 1.13 points per trip. That should be more than enough to beat a Butler team that has only score more than a point per possession three times since the start of 2023.
Stat Watch: After 14 assists last time out against DePaul, Tyler Kolek.... still has the 2nd most assists by a Marquette junior. He’s been stuck there for a while and he will continue to be stuck there as the Marquette junior year record is also the overall single season record. Speaking of, Kolek now has the 3rd most assists in a single season by any Marquette player. He passed 1993 Tony Miller, 1996 Aaron Hutchins, and 1992 Tony Miller all in one game, which is what happens when you have 14 helpers in one game. Kolek needs 22 assists to catch 1995 Tony Miller for 2nd place, so this will probably have to wait until the regular season finale at the earliest. Probably.
Stat Watch #2: Oso Ighodaro has passed Dwyane Wade for the 7th most blocks by a Marquette junior. He needs three more to catch Luke Fischer and Dwayne “Not The Rock” Johnson in a tie for fifth place.
Stat Watch #3: Kam Jones has the 4th most made triples by a Marquette sophomore after hitting seven against DePaul last time out. He will still need another seven just to tie Steve Novak for third place.
Marquette Last 10 Games: 9-1 and riding a four game winning streak.
Butler Last 10 Games: 3-7, but the three wins are in the last five games, including a 59-58 victory at Wintrust Arena last Wednesday in their most recent contest.
All-Time Series: It stands tied at 24 wins each.
Current Streak: Marquette won the National Marquette Day meeting in Milwaukee earlier this season to move to two straight wins over Butler. The Golden Eagles have won five of the last six and seven of the last nine.