Bryce Golden looks to pass to an open teammate in Butler’s 66-62 win over Western Michigan on Nov. 25. The Bulldogs look to end their three-game losing streak at home versus DePaul. Photo from Zach Bolinger.
HENRY BREDEMEIER | ASST. SPORTS EDITOR| firstname.lastname@example.org
The Butler men’s basketball team will try to complete the season sweep over the DePaul Blue Demons on Feb. 6. The Bulldogs beat DePaul handily when the two teams last played on Jan. 19, but Butler has lost their last three games since then. Following the Blue Demons’ loss to Butler, they picked up their first conference win of the season on the road versus Marquette but have lost two home games in a row to St. John’s and No. 15 Creighton.
Who: Butler (5-10, 4-8 Big East) vs. DePaul (3-7, 1-7 Big East)
When: Feb. 6, 12 p.m.
Where: Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Indiana
Where to watch/listen: FS1, 107.5FM/93.5FM/1070AM
1. A meeting between Big East bottom feeders
Saturday’s matchup features the bottom two teams in the Big East; no Big East team has more conference losses than the Bulldogs, and no Big East teams has as few wins as the Blue Demons. Both Butler and DePaul have decent defenses, but they struggle on the offensive end. Butler ranks dead-last in the Big East in points per game, and DePaul ranks second to last, scoring 62.7 and 69.1 per contest, respectively. In virtually every offensive category—free throw percentage, assists per game and offensive rating—Butler and DePaul are at or near the bottom of the Big East.
Despite their woes on the offensive end, both teams can still compete with the league’s best. Butler defeated a top-ten Creighton in mid-January. In DePaul’s last game, they held a lead with three minutes to play against the nationally ranked Blue Jays, before letting it go late. This game also has big implications: a win for Butler could see them move towards the middle of the pack in the Big East, potentially setting them up with a higher seed in the Big East tournament. For DePaul, this is a must win if they have any hopes of finishing above last place in the conference.
2. The separation between the two is shown through turnovers and threes
Although both teams struggle on the offensive end, there is one significant stat that Butler performs much better than DePaul in: turnovers. DePaul leads the conference in turnovers per game with 16, a whole turnover more than second place Georgetown. Three Blue Demons rank in the top seven in turnovers per game—Charlie Moore, Javon Freeman-Liberty and Romeo Weems—all average 2.8 or more turnovers per contest. In contrast, the Bulldogs rank second to last in turnovers per game, coughing up 10.9 per game, with only one Bulldog ranking in the Big East’s top 25. Part of this disparity is due to Butler’s slow pace—the lowest in the conference—but the Bulldogs deserve credit for taking care of the ball in the majority of their games.
Three-point shooting also separates these two teams, but it’s not because Butler shoots particularly well. Nationally, Butler ranks 152nd in three-point shooting percentage with 34.1 percent, which makes them a slightly above average team from beyond the arc. DePaul ranks 260th with 31.3 percent, placing them directly below IUPUI in that category. In the last meeting, this three-point shooting contrast manifested itself; Butler shot 37 percent from three, making 10, and DePaul shot a measly 16.7 percent, only hitting four three-pointers. Their starters combined to shoot 1-16 from deep in that game, which is never a recipe for success. Speaking of that game…
3. The previous matchup in Chicago can tell us a lot about this one
In the previous matchup between these two teams, Butler came out on top 67-53 on the road. As mentioned before, DePaul shot the ball poorly, particularly from deep. However, that is not necessarily a good sign for Butler heading into this game. If DePaul shot at their season average from three, the game would have been much closer, and could have easily swung the other way. Some of the credit should be given to the Butler defense—they played their most complete defensive game of the season—but you can’t expect teams to shoot that sub-17 percent from three. A main concern for the Bulldogs from the previous matchup was their season-high 18 turnovers. DePaul has a knack for forcing turnovers. They lead the Big East in turnovers forced per game and are a top-60 defense according to KenPom. Although the Bulldogs have limited their turnovers through much of the season, Butler’s ball security is something to watch out for versus the opportunistic DePaul defense.
Butler controlled the pace in the last matchup, forcing DePaul to attack Butler in the half-court, where the Bulldogs defense thrives. On the other side of the ball, Butler had three guards score in double digits, as Jair Bolden scored a season-high 21 with five three-pointers, and Myles Tate and Chuck Harris added 10 apiece. DePaul will have to deal with those three again, in addition to Aaron Thompson and transfer Bo Hodges, who will be making his third appearance for the Bulldogs and played all but one minute last game versus Marquette. DePaul will no doubt have a handful guarding Butler’s plethora of guards; any one of them could impose their will on the game. If the Bulldogs can limit turnovers and force the Blue Demons to play at a slow pace, Butler will be in good shape to complete the season sweep.