Bryce Nze finishes through contact against Xavier earlier this week. Nze and the Bulldogs look to avoid a three-game losing streak at Marquette on Feb. 2. Photo by Zach Bolinger.
DREW SANDIFER | SPORTS EDITOR | email@example.com
After falling short of a comeback against archrival Xavier on Jan. 30, the Butler men’s basketball team heads to Milwaukee to face Marquette for the first time this season.
Transfer Bo Hodges will make his second career appearance for the Bulldogs at the Golden Eagles. Hodges, who scored 11 points on 5-for-14 shooting to pair with six rebounds, was granted eligibility by the NCAA on Jan. 30 a mere hours before the Xavier game.
Here’s everything you need to know as the Bulldogs prepare to face the Golden Eagles.
Who: Butler (5-9, 4-7 Big East) at Marquette (8-9, 4-7 Big East)
When: Feb. 2, 5 p.m. ET
Where: Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
How to watch/listen: FS1, 1430 AM
1. Like Butler, Marquette is badly missing their star guard who graduated last year
The Big East coaches felt Marquette would be a middle-of-the-pack team in the league this year, pitting the Golden Eagles at sixth in the preseason poll. After dropping three games in a row, Marquette now finds itself at 4-7 in league play and in a dead tie with Butler for eighth in the league. Similarly to the Bulldogs, Marquette has struggled to adapt from the days where Markus Howard was dropping 30 points per game on a nightly basis.
On. Feb 10, the Golden Eagles fell to St. John’s at home, 75-73, while only making five of their 17 3-point attempts. The game was a great opportunity for Coach Wojciechowski’s bunch to pick up a win after back-to-back losses to DePaul and Providence over the previous eight days. After Marquette was likely to miss the tournament last year, this year’s team has seemingly not turned the page for a bounce back campaign.
2. Marquette’s offensive attack is extremely balanced and features perhaps the Big East’s best guard-forward combo in two years
The Golden Eagles have a very different looking roster than they were a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament two years ago. Long gone are the days of Howard and the Hauser brothers. In their place, however, are a good collection of players that can give Butler troubles on Tuesday night. No Marquette player averages more than 13 points per game, but features four who get double-digits on a nightly basis.
Freshman Dawson Garcia leads the team in points and rebounds with 12.6 and 7.1, respectively, but Marquette also has a trio of college basketball veterans in seniors Koby McEwan and Jamal Cain along with Ohio State transfer DJ Carton. Garcia has been named All-Big East Freshman of the Week multiple times this year and Carton has flashed the ability to be an all-league guard by the time he is a senior. While the two aren’t blazing their way through the conference this year, it will be intriguing to see Marquette and Butler face each other again in two years when the young talent on both sides fully develops. As for this year, this Golden Eagles defense has some holes that could be exploited by an opportunistic Butler offense. With the presence of Theo John — who averages nearly two blocks a game — on the inside, Marquette understandably sees its opponents take more perimeter shots than any other team in the conference, but nearly allows 40 percent shooting from behind the 3-point line.
3. This is a big game for both teams moving forward
While the Bulldogs and Golden Eagles aren’t going to be named to a top 25 poll or seeded in a mock NCAA Tournament bracket any time soon, there is still much to be played for this season. With the Big East as balanced as nearly another conference in the nation, it does seem redundant to say any one game is big for both sides, but it is true. Both teams stand at 4-7 in conference play, so the difference between 5-7 and 4-8 could mean the difference between competing for a .500 record in league play and drifting toward the league’s cellar. Both teams are sporting multi-game losing streaks and with such young talent on both sides, this portion of the year could go a long way to promote success and development from their youngsters.
Statistically speaking, there’s not much that stands out about this Marquette team. Sure, they are allowing a league-worst 9.3 made 3-pointers this season, but no other stat is league-best or league-worst for this group.
The Golden Eagles’ results this season align with that point as well. DePaul’s lone win in league play this year is to Marquette, but the Golden Eagles also hold upset wins versus No. 4 Wisconsin and at No. 9 Creighton this season. In many ways, this game will be like Butler playing itself. There is no superstar player who is a cut above the rest of the roster and are both equally as likely to win by 20 as they are to lose by 20.