I’m not going to lie; I really enjoyed the week off. Not that I did anything special, just didn’t have to watch Butler lose by thirty. That being said, the Bulldogs are back in action to take on Marquette, and somehow this is the first time these two teams are meeting. Either way, here are some keys to the game followed by a prediction.
Can Butler Score?
Marquette is the best offense in the country, according to the numbers. They can get out and they put tons of points up on just about anybody. KenPom has them as the best offense in the country, Barttorvik agrees, they’re that good on that side of the ball.
In turn, since conference play began, Butler’s offense ranks 313 out of 363 teams in the country. Second worst high-major offense during this time, only ahead of Oregon State.
So, it’s a bit of a mismatch on this end. Marquette is going to score, so Butler will have to find a way to try to score with them. Without Chuck Harris, that’s just going to be even tougher for this struggling Bulldog offense.
If this doesn't perfectly illustrate good vs bad offense, then idk what will
Marquette’s defense is alright, they rank 63 in adjusted defensive efficiency according to KenPom, it’s not great, but they’re solid on that end. They’re the fifth-best defense in the conference, so they’re a team you can score on.
A lot of what they do defensively is based around getting deflections, they target getting 32 deflections per game, and if they get that they win much more often than they don’t. The broadcast will show it, I guarantee it (so don’t say I didn’t warn you).
The phrase "all-knowing whiteboard" is as good as it gets
They're eighth in the country in steals per game as a team. Their defense feeds off these plays and it usually leads to some easy buckets in transition. If Butler can play smart and not turn the ball over, they have a much better chance of winning this game.
This actually leads to my next key:
Point Guard Play
I love Tyler Kolek’s game so much. He’s so fun to watch. He has that arrogant swagger to him, but he also sees the game so well. He’s always like five steps ahead of the opponent's defense. His basketball IQ is through the roof. He throws some absolutely gorgeous passes and just does it with such ease. He’s truly magnificent, it’s a joy to watch.
I think this is a little extreme, but hey go off.
He’s third in the country in assists, just behind Yuri Collins and Markquis Nowell. He’s one spot ahead of Jalen Pickett of Penn State, who absolutely sliced and diced this Butler defense. Kolek's game is actually very similar to Pickett's. They both are always under control, they’re taller point guards (Pickett’s 6’4” to Kolek’s 6’3”), they drive a lot to pass, but both can score. Pickett is the better scorer and Kolek is the better passer. If you let Tyler Kolek get into the flow of a game, good luck. He will absolutely carve up your defense.
I mean my goodness if you don't love that perfect, precise pocket pass then you don't love basketball.
On the other end, Eric Hunter has really struggled this year. His struggles are very well documented, as he’s averaging 6.4PPG, 2.2 assists per game with 1.8 turnovers per game on 32% from the field and 26% from three. He’s been put in a very rough spot, trying to initiate this offense which just doesn’t have much going.
In Butler’s conference wins, Hunter is averaging 14.7PPG, 4.7 assists and 4.7 rebounds per game with only one turnover, on 53.6% shooting from the field and 35.7% from three. His play already means so much to this team, and in a game like this one, it matters that much more.
I swear I calculated these stats myself, I have an excel sheet to prove it. I just saw this after.
If he can effectively lead this offense and prevent any unforced errors/turnovers Butler can potentially keep this game close. Marquette won’t be able to get out in transition as easily (I won’t mention it as a key, but it should be noted that Butler’s transition defense is beyond atrocious) and it could slow down their juggernaut offense.
Is Marquette’s offense actually THAT good?
Yes, yes it is. I feel like I glossed past the whole “first in the nation” thing, but they have the best offense in the country. They have one of the best, if not the best, set-up men in the country in Tyler Kolek, a legit go-to scorer in Kam Jones, a prototypical NBA wing in Olivier-Maxence Prosper, a legit point center in Oso Ighodaro, and an awesome shooter/the frontrunner for sixth man of the year in the Big East in David Joplin.
Ok, now that all that’s out of the way, let’s dig a little deeper.
Marquette is actually the best two-point offense in the country. Marquette makes 60.6% of their two-point attempts, which also leads the country. They have the second-best effective field goal percentage in the country, only behind Colgate. They don’t turn the ball over much at all, as they rank fifteenth in turnover percentage, despite playing at a pretty fast pace.
I could go on and on, but you’ll just have to watch how awesome Marquette’s offense is to see it. It’s really a thing of beauty.
I won’t lie, these are getting pretty hard to write. Every Butler game follows the same script. The other team has these strengths, there are areas Butler maybe could possibly exploit (they don’t), and they just lose. Losing big at that. I feel like I’ve hit every note there possibly is to cover on this Butler team.
I don’t expect much else to be different. They take a ton of awful mid-range jumpers, get badly outrebounded and outhustled, don’t defend in transition, don’t move on offense and as soon as the other team goes on an insurmountable 4-0 run, the game is over. And now with Chuck Harris out, it might just get worse.
So yeah, I don’t think this one will be any different. It’s a matter of how much Marquette wins by, not if in my mind. And I think they lay an absolute smackdown on this Butler team. I don’t think this game is close and I think Marquette’s metrics look better after pouring it on this poor Butler team.
If you asked me preseason, maybe I’d think Marquette would win, but not by a bloodbath. I was way too low on this Marquette team and way too high on this Butler squad.
Marquette by any way they want. Kill Butler in transition, force misses and flow offensively.
Final Score: Marquette 85, Butler 56
Just gonna plug this thread that I had with @PaintTouches here, I think it's worth the read. Shoutout to @EthicalHoya for jumping in too. Here's the thread, but if you just want the cliff notes, don't worry I gotchu.