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Game Preview: DePaul at Butler

Usually, in these previews, I come in and have an idea of exactly what I’m going to say. For this one, I have absolutely no idea. The 9-6 Butler Bulldogs host the 7-8 DePaul Blue Demons, as both teams look to get out of the Big East cellar and have a conference win against a team not named Georgetown. Let’s see what I can come up with.

DePaul’s Health


If there’s one team in the Big East that has had to deal with more injuries than Butler, it’s DePaul. My goodness, this roster has been absolutely ravaged due to injuries, you just have to feel bad. Caleb Murphy, the South Florida transfer, was expected to lead this team but hasn’t played a single game due to a broken wrist.


Nick Ongenda was their starting center last season, and also broke his wrist and is out for a substantial period of time. Their current starting center, Yor Anei, has only played in six games due to a foot injury. This wasn't the deepest team going, and arguably their two most important players have yet to step foot on the floor this season.


Who knows how different this DePaul team would be if they were fully healthy. They’ve only had five guys log minutes in all fifteen of their games, which just speaks volumes about their constant injuries.


Javan Johnson


DePaul’s leading scorer is the 6’6” Javan Johnson, who actually made his DePaul debut last season in Hinkle Fieldhouse. Johnson is another one of these prototypical 6’6” wing matchups that Butler has had trouble with all season. Johnson, however, is a lethal three-point shooter, and that’s where he scores most of his points. Johnson has made 40 of his 86 shots from three-point land this season, and he shoots it at a very efficient 44.4% clip.


Johnson is a legit outside threat who’s capable of going for 20+ on any given night. In DePaul’s one Big East win, Johnson shot 5/7 from three-point land en route to scoring 21 points and knocking off Georgetown. Then again, who doesn’t go off against Georgetown?

Johnson has scored 20 or more points in 6 of DePaul’s games, and they are 6-0 in those games. In games where he doesn’t reach the 20-point mark, DePaul is 1-8, with the one win coming over the mighty Western Illinois Leatherbacks, ranked 280 in KenPom.

This was the first thing that came up when I searched "Javan Johnson" on Twitter. The only problem is, that's not Javan Johnson. That's Jalen Terry.


Point Guard Play


Last game against Georgetown Eric Hunter Jr. got it going, finally. He’s struggled in conference play, more than doubling his totals in both points and assists last game. Hopefully, he can continue the positive momentum and keep that ball moving on the offensive end. This Butler team is much better when Hunter is locked in and effectively running the offense.


For DePaul, Umoja Gibson has saved them in spots. He hit two massive threes from the logo against Georgetown, which led Patrick Ewing to think he was Steph Curry.

But man, he’s been excellent in some games this season. He went for 31 against Georgetown, scoring from literally everywhere on the floor. He was 3/4, 5/8 from three and 10/10 from the free-throw line. Much like with Johnson, Gibson has scored 20+ in four games, and DePaul is 4-0 in those games, with wins over Georgetown, Western Illinois, Loyola Chicago and UTEP.

The point-guard battle is crucial in this matchup. Gibson is instant offense for DePaul, and Butler is 0-5 when Eric Hunter scores in single digits vs 9-1 when he scores in double figures. Both point guards are extremely important to their team's success.


Butler’s Offense


As mentioned in the last note, Butler’s offense is so much better when the ball is moving. The last game against Georgetown was very stagnant to start, much like the three games beforehand, but Butler turned up and the ball movement looked pretty. This team doesn’t have guys who can consistently score in one-on-one matchups, but when the ball is moving and guys make the right pass, this offense is a thing of beauty.

And obviously, as I will mention in every single game until it’s not true, the three-point shooting splits for Butler are beyond staggering. It’s not a coincidence at this point.

Butler is ranked inside the top 50 in the country in two-point percentage, shooting 54.2% from inside the arc. DePaul doesn’t defend particularly well here, as their two-point percentage defense ranks 180th, so just about even compared to the rest of the college basketball landscape. Despite a very good offensive performance against Georgetown, they’re shooting 48.4% inside the arc over their last three games, which would rank tied with Drexel, Portland State and Arkansas Little Rock for 238th.


Butler will have to score effectively and eclipse the 60-point mark this game, for the second time in Big East play, if they want to beat DePaul.


Prediction:


I really am uncertain about this game. I’m fairly confident Butler wins, but if we're looking at Vegas for a second, this game opened with Butler as ten-point favorites, and the number dropped to 7.5 very quickly. I think that feels about right personally, ten seems like a ton for a team who has scored 46, 56 and 52 points in three of their four conference games. I don’t expect this to be a particularly high-paced game, either, so ten points is a lot.


Butler will need to keep the momentum going in this one, the offense looked leaps and bounds better in the final 30ish minutes of the Georgetown game than it has in a while. Butler will need to keep the ball moving and not settle for isolations. Like they iso’d against Akok Akok last game.

He’s Georgetown’s one defender! Keep the ball moving, share the sugar and good things will happen. Play as a team, not as a group of individuals.


For DePaul, their two stars will have to get it going. In two of DePaul’s biggest wins this season, Loyola Chicago and Georgetown, both Gibson and Johnson put up 20+ points, so Butler will need to limit them if they want to win this game. DePaul is 4-0 when Gibson scores 20+ and 6-0 when Johnson does. They are not effective if you can shut down their two stars.


Butler was able to contain Georgetown’s two stars, with Brandon Murray and Primo Spears combining for 13 points on 5/19 shooting, and they will need to do the same to Johnson and Gibson.


Prediction: Butler 68, DePaul 61




I spent a good portion of my piece last week talking about the failing Georgetown program, and how much it meant to be. Just my thoughts on seeing the program I grew up with, which so sadly defines a decent part of who I am, absolutely sucking. So in the spirit of equal time, here's a DePaul fan doing exactly that. Would very much recommend checking it out.


For the few of you who made it to this point, you are the absolute real MVP's.

I'm so glad I discovered those "when ______ scores ___ points, his team is ___-___" stats, otherwise, I have no idea how I'd write this preview.


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