When: February 4
Time: 9:00 EST
Where: Bradley Center, Milwaukee WI
How to watch: Fox Sports 1
The preseason favorite to win the league, the Marquette Golden Eagles have found just one constant this season---their freakish inability to establish a winning (or losing) streak. Marquette's last 11 games: LWLWLWLWLWL. Before that, Buzz Williams' team split two game winning streaks with a two game losing streak in an all-around impressive effort to make their schedule look as pretty as possible on KemPom.
Buzz might blame his team's inconsistent play on "competitive inequities in the schedule"(Huh?), but the fact of the matter is that Marquette just hasn't played that well this year. The team-formerly-known-as-the-Warriors is running its least efficient offense since Dwayne Wade came to town and can't play enough defense to dig themselves out of holes.
Marquette is 330th in the country in three-point shooting, a stat that doesn't spell defeat on its own (they were 323rd last year en route to the Elite Eight) but causes trouble when Davante Gardner isn't grabbing offensive boards at a massive rate and there's no Vander Blue to ease the scoring load.
How Butler Can Win-
The Butler Bulldogs won in Hinkle Fieldhouse by holding Marquette to a dreadful 33.8 percent effective field goal rate, the second-worst eFG% of their season. Gardner was Marquette's only effective offensive player of the game, scoring 17, while other guys turned the ball over way too much (Derrick Wilson) or bricked a bunch of threes (Todd Mayo). If Butler can bring the defense, they can eke out another ugly win.
Butler wasn't much better on offense in the prior contest, scoring less than a point per possession, but Kellen Dunham and Khyle Marshall were both able to score 18. Since that game, Andrew Chrabascz has grown into a starting role and should provide a third scoring option from the tip that wasn't there last time. In fairness, Erik Fromm played rather well against Marquette, but Chrabascz is Butler's best post scorer by a wide margin.
How Marquette Can Win-
Jamil Wilson remembers how to put the ball in the hoop. He was 0-5 against St. John's, but scored 13 last time out against Butler. Not normally a good three-point shooter, Wilson shot 3-8 from the perimeter in Indianapolis. At 6'7", he can be a matchup problem against a Butler team that can't have Kameron Woods guard three tall players at once (counting 6'11" Chris Otule and the 6'8" Gardner).
It remains to be seen how Coach Williams will use Gardner. Averaging 14.7 points per game, Gardner is third in the Big East in field goal percentage. He's used to coming off the bench with Marquette opting for a smaller lineup from the start, but as the Golden Eagles' best offensive weapon its hard to take Gardner off the floor.
KenPom: Marquette 67, Butler 60 (24 percent chance of Butler victory)
I'll actually call the upset in this one. Marquette figures out a way to lose two in a row in the Big East. Butler's already hit rock bottom, something has to break the Bulldogs' way eventually, right?