Big East Preview Part II: Key Questions for Marquette & Butler

Posted by Justin Kundrat on October 25th, 2017

With the season just a few weeks away, Rush the Court’s Big East preview will tip off its coverage by posing a season-defining key question for each team. Last week we covered DePaul and Georgetown.

#8 Marquette – Will there be enough talent on the defensive end to support the run and gun offense?

Wojo Looks to Build on His First NCAA Tournament Appearance (USA Today Images)

The Golden Eagles may not have been a transition-oriented team last season (131st nationally in percentage of shots coming in transition), but they could certainly put points up in a hurry. The tremendously efficient offense, supported by a nation-leading three point percentage (42.9%), provided for plenty of entertainment, including a comeback victory over top-ranked Villanova in January. What’s causing Marquette fans to get excited and opponents to get overly anxious this time around is that the Eagles’ top three shooters are back. Backcourt mates Andrew Rowsey and Markus Howard are joined by stretch forward Sam Hauser to form what should once again be a punishing trio. The not-so-exciting part — Marquette’s defense — is another story. Watching the ball drop through the net is fun, but blown defensive assignments and paltry interior defense are not. The Golden Eagles allowed their opponents to shoot a blistering 68.9 percent at the rim last season, good for 10th worst in college basketball. Furthermore, one of the only two players who stands above 6’7″ is now gone, and freshmen and a midseason transfer from SMU are expected to fill the void. Moreover, the team loses arguably its best perimeter defender in JaJuan Johnson. It’s never comforting to point to newcomers as a way to shore up stark defensive holes, but that’s the position Marquette finds itself in this season. Should Steve Wojciechowski‘s team gel on the defensive end, this team could very easily find itself back in the NCAA Tournament.

#7 Butler – Who handles the point guard duties?

Butler Needs to Figure Out Its Backcourt (USA Today Images)

Everyone knows Butler basketball for its tenacious defense and methodical tempo, both of which are so steadfast that opponents are forced to adjust. And with the returns of Kamar Baldwin and Tyler Wideman, two of the Big East’s premier defenders, there’s little reason to think that first-time head coach LaVall Jordan will have difficulty instilling that philosophy. The bigger question this preseason is who will fill the shoes of departed point guard Tyler Lewis? The fifth-year senior certainly didn’t fill up the box score in every way, but he was second in the conference in assist rate (32.6%) and he ran the team’s most efficient lineups on a points per possession basis. Moreover, the Bulldogs lost two other seniors in the backcourt — departing players accounted for nearly 70 percent of the Bulldogs’ assists last year. So despite the team’s continued defensive resolution and senior forward Kelan Martin’s highly regarded scoring abilities, there’s a significant hole in this backcourt. Jordan hopes that George Washington transfer Paul Jorgensen can become the player to fill the vacuum, but he was merely a rotation player in the Atlantic 10 who has yet to face Big East competition. And while his raw talent may fit the mold, the point guard position is such an important part of Butler’s offense that it remains the biggest unanswered question this season. After all, the Bulldogs have finished among the top 10 nationally in turnover percentage in each of the last two seasons.

Justin Kundrat (122 Posts)

Villanova grad, patiently waiting another 10 years for season tickets. Follow Justin on twitter @JustinKundrat or email him at justin.kundrat@gmail.com


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