Big East Basketball continues to roll on as we have 10-6 (2-3) Butler Bulldogs traveling to New Jersey to take on the 8-8 (1-4) Seton Hall Pirates.
I expect this one to be an incredibly ugly game, and here’s why:
Here’s where I get the obligatory “Butler 3-point shooting in wins vs losses” stat out of the way.
As for Seton Hall, they’re one of the worst teams in the country at shooting the three-ball, but they’re one of the best at defending it. Seton Hall is 325th in the country in three-point shooting percentage, but 37th in three-point defense. They won’t make many, but you won’t make any either.
This video/gif will never get old. It's perfect. The first miss being a close miss really makes it perfect. The final shot will always get a laugh out of me.
In conference play, they're shooting it a little worse than they are across the entire season (28% vs 30%), ranking dead last in the Big East. Creighton was able to blitz Seton Hall from deep and hit over 40% of their three-point attempts, but this Butler offense isn’t nearly as good as Creighton’s.
For Butler, they defend the three-point line pretty well, only allowing opponents to shoot 30% from three over the course of the season and 31% during conference play. Teams haven’t blitzed Butler from deep, and Seton Hall doesn't seem to be the team to buck that trend, though anything can happen.
If Butler is moving the ball well on offense and shooting it well from deep, they’re a very tough team to beat. Against a team like Seton Hall, they take away a lot of what you like to do offensively and make you adjust. If Butler can keep the ball moving and hit some outside shots, they’ll be in good shape.
Length and Athleticism:
If you’ve followed just about anything I’ve said about Butler this season, one thing I’ve said consistently is that they struggled with length and athleticism. UConn, Providence and Tennessee were able to use their superior length to just bully the Bulldogs. That’s exactly what Seton Hall does.
Kadary Richmond is a nightmare matchup for Butler. Jalen Pickett went ballistic against Butler (then again, who hasn’t he played well against?), and Kadary Richmond presents some of the same problems. He’s not as good offensively as Pickett, but he still has the ability to bull you with his athleticism and size and is tall enough at 6’6” to see over the defense and make the right pass. If he’s in attack mode, he could cause some serious problems for Butler.
But his offense isn’t his best asset. It’s his defense. Eric Hunter has finally gotten going, playing his best game of the season last outing against DePaul. Stepping up here against Richmond, maybe the best defensive guard in the Big East, will cause some serious problems. Richmond not only has the length to cause serious problems, but he also has incredibly fast hands, averaging 1.9 steals per game, fourth in the Big East.
Seton Hall isn’t the biggest team, but with guys like Ndefo and Richmond on the floor on the defensive end, sometimes it feels like they’ve got seven guys out there. Ndefo is everywhere inside, he’s blocking shots, rebounding, closing out on shooters, etc. With guys like him and Richmond on the defensive end, it’s incredibly hard to score on them. Ndefo is only listed at 6’7”, yet he leads the Big East in blocks per game at 2.3, and is inside the top 20 nationally in blocks per game. He’s everywhere on defense and it’s truly a joy to watch.
Just look at this play. He goes from guarding the big man (Omoruyi), switching onto the guard (Mulcahy), forces a bad shot, then gets the scramble rebound on the other side of the floor which seals the game. Just Awesome.
I’m very intrigued to see how Butler tries to attack this defense. You won’t beat them one-on-one off the dribble, and they’ve got the athletes to really bother you. Butler has settled for a ton of these 15-18 foot midrange jumpers this season, it wouldn’t surprise me to see a ton of those.
Seton Hall’s Offense
Seton Hall’s defense is the best unit in this game according to KenPom, and to everybody with eyes, but in turn, their offense is the worst unit in this game.
Seton Hall isn’t afraid to win ugly and put up some complete duds offensively. If you were able to sit through the entire game when they played Rutgers, more power to you, but that’s the type of team Seton Hall is. They can win a game 45-43 against one of the best teams in the country, they can also play like they did against Siena, shoot 1/9 from three, go 32.7% from the field and put up 55 points.
Seton Hall is 0-7 in games where their opponent puts up over 70 points. If you can hit the 70-point mark against this Seton Hall team, you’re looking pretty good. In turn, they are 6-0 when they score over 70 points, so there’s your key number.
Butler’s Balanced Scoring Attack
Butler doesn’t have one go-to guy on the offensive end, but they’ve got multiple guys that can beat you on any given night. They’ve got five guys averaging in double figures this season, with Jayden Taylor currently leading the way at 13.6PPG and Simas Lukosius rounding it out at 10.4PPG.
They have enough guys that can beat you, and someone can get hot on any given night. All five of these guys (Bates, Harris, Taylor, Lukosius, Hunter) have led the team in scoring, everyone but Hunter having done so multiple times. All but Lukosius have had 20-point outings in at least one game this season.
They’re going to need someone to find a hot hand in this matchup, as it isn’t easy to score against this Seton Hall defense. Butler can put five guys out there who can score, that could change how Seton Hall defends them. Not many teams have as balanced a scoring attack as Butler does, let’s see if that changes anything.
I’m not expecting either team to light it up offensively. I’m expecting this to be a low-scoring, slog of a game where the first team to 50 is probably in the driver’s seat. Neither team likes to play at a particularly fast pace, and both teams are better defensively than they are on offense.
Butler has struggled with toughness and physicality in the Big East, and that’s exactly what Seton hall brings. In all three of their losses, the Providence game being the most notable, they got manhandled. Providence went wherever they wanted on the floor and were the much more physical team.
I know this is from last year, but man I love this quote. It's awesome. He's expecting the same level of toughness out of this Seton Hall team, that I can guarantee you.
With how hard and physical this Seton Hall team is, they could just break Butler. I just don’t know if they are capable of putting up enough points for this one to be a rout. They did against St. John’s, but Butler’s defense is much better than the Johnnies’.
Seton Hall, to me at least, is a team I like much more as an underdog than a favorite. They’re going to play in low-paced, closer games and grind on you defensively. They’re tough and not the type of team to back down from a challenge. At least, after Coach Sha tests them.
But, I just don’t know if they can put up enough points to completely dominate a competitive team. I’m expecting them to be in a ton of close games, and I don’t think this one will be any different.
Butler hasn’t played in many close games, the BYU one is the only close game I can point to. I think if Butler is moving the ball offensively, they can possibly come away with a win here, but I think Seton Hall’s length, physicality and athleticism allow them to grind out an ugly game.
Final Score: Seton Hall 58, Butler 56