"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Monday, November 11, 2019

#MUBB got the win and the Markus record out of the way, now the work begins

Solid, if unrevealing, win for #MUBB in the season opener against Loyola Maryland. We talk about the game and if there is anything of consequence to take away from it. (1:30). One important thing that came out of the game is Markus Howard setting the all-time MU scoring record so we talk about the record and Markus in general (8:00). We then turn our chatter to the upcoming Gavitt game against Purdue. We talk about what we think will happen, what a MU victory has to look like, and what concerns we have about the game going in to it(15:00). Then we discuss that other game on the schedule this week with that team 90 miles west of MU central. That's right it's #BadgerHateWeek, so we get into it and try not to overlook Wisconsin(29:27). Enjoy! https://scrambledeggs.podbean.com/mf/play/rt84gv/scrambledeggs_edit_111019.mp3

Monday, November 04, 2019

Let's light this candle! #mubb season kick-off pod

We made it, we got through the off-season with a lot of scars but we're now ready to roll so buckle up cause it's gonna be a long one. We kick-off the pod with some discuss of what take-aways(if any) we have from the secret scrimmage and the exhibition game (3:07). We then tackle our annual tradition of going nearly game by game and call our shots in terms of wins and losses for the season....one of us has been doubling down on his optimism pills (11:28). Once the season has been forecast we then tackle big picture questions on the season like what is the floor and the ceiling for this team and what will make this a successful season (38:12). As always, enjoy! https://scrambledeggs.podbean.com/mf/play/i3n6zw/scrambledeggs_edit_110319.mp3

Friday, November 01, 2019

Marquette Non-Conference Schedule Analysis

Earlier this week, Matt Norlander of CBS Sports released a ranking of the best and worst non-conference schedules. Marquette checked in tied for #14 in the country. While that definitely indicates a tough schedule, what I really like is how it is constructed. The best part of this schedule is not how hard it is, but rather how well it is set up to generate wins for Marquette against what I believe will be a harder schedule on paper than on the court.

Considering kenpom is one of the metrics factored into the NET and kenpom had the highest correlation to NET last year, I am going to compare the kenpom rankings over the years of previous schedules to determine where this one ranks. This is also the metric Norlander used for his article linked above. Further, I'm going to break down games by presumed Quadrants since that is where the Selection Committee will be looking come March.

One more note, I will strictly be using kenpom numbers for this. The reason is for a fair comparison. The alternative is to mix RPI and NET numbers, so to have one consistent metric, the one that came closest to mimicking NET was kenpom, and kenpom also goes back over Wojo's tenure for a full and fair comparison. I am adding a Quadrant 5 as well, to reflect the sub-300 home games that really drag on a team's strength of schedule. Here is how Marquette fared against these Quadrants by season in the past, as well as how many of each quadrant they play in 2019-20.

2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 Record Win Pctg 2020
Q1A 0-3 1-0 0-1 0-2 1-1 2-7 0.222 2
Q1B 0-0 0-1 2-1 1-0 3-1 6-3 0.667 3
Q2A 0-0 0-0 0-0 1-0 0-0 1-0 1.000 1
Q2B 3-0 2-0 0-1 0-1 0-0 5-2 0.714 0
Q3 1-0 0-1 1-0 2-0 1-0 5-1 0.833 0
Q4 1-1 4-0 3-0 3-0 4-0 15-1 0.938 5
Q5 3-0 4-0 3-0 2-0 2-0 14-0 1.000 1

So what does this tell us? First, Q1A games are very hard to win. That said, Marquette has flourished in the next three tiers, going 12-5 against Q1B and all of Q2. It's nice to see 4 of the projected 6 toughest games in those categories, insuring opportunities for quality wins. It's also worth noting Marquette is a combined 20-2 in Q3 and Q4 games. The 0.909 winning percentage in those two quadrants tells me that's where you want the bulk of the buy games to be. Q5 might be guaranteed wins, but I don't think you have to look further than the 2016 team to understand why you want to avoid those games. The Ellenson team had the most Q5 games and tied for the most Q4 games played and didn't go to the postseason despite one of only two Q1A wins Marquette has earned in non-con play under Wojo.

To get to the full 12-game schedule, I had to project opponents for the Orlando Invitational. Since we are using kenpom numbers, I projected the most likely opponents based on matchups, which led to neutral site games with USC and Maryland. Before we look at the Quadrant breakdowns, here's a reminder of what each Quadrant features:

Home Neutral Away
Q1A 1-15 1-25 1-40
Q1B 16-30 26-50 41-75
Q2A 31-55 51-75 76-100
Q2B 56-75 76-100 101-135
Q3 76-160 101-200 136-240
Q4 161-299 201+ 241+
Q5 300+

Let's break down the games in each Quadrant for 2020:

Quadrant 1A: Purdue (H), Maryland (N)
Marquette hasn't won a home Q1A game under Wojo, going 0-2. I like their odds to make Purdue the first, though I'm not convinced Purdue will still be Q1A come March. Maryland will be a tough test at any venue, though one of Marquette's two Q1A wins did come at a neutral site, last year against Louisville. Neither of these games are likely to hurt the resume come March.

Quadrant 1B: Wisconsin (A), USC (N), Kansas State (A)
The first thought I had was that having all of these away from home is tough, but then I noted that Marquette is 3-1 in Quadrant 1B games away from home, with the only loss at Indiana. The advantage to having these games away from home is that it gives a lot more cushion to where the teams need to be ranked. Wisconsin seems like to at worst remain top-75 while 86% of Big 12 teams have been top-75 in the past 5 years, so it seems likely that even a down Kansas State should be Q1B. USC is right on the cusp and could fall to Quadrant 2, but would be a solid game regardless, especially as it would mean a win over a Davidson team I believe will likely end up in this category. What I really love about these games is that if Marquette is legitimately good, they should be able to beat these teams on any court.

Quadrant 2A: Davidson (N)
I think this ends up being a Quadrant 1 team by the time the year is done. They have a favorable schedule and will be in the mix for their league title. Another reason why this is the most important game of the year is because of the two neutral site games above this one. With a win over Davidson, Marquette is projected to play two Quadrant 1 games. With a loss, they would be projected to play Quadrant 4 Fairfield and Quadrant 2A Texas A&M. Beating Davidson has a huge schedule impact.

Quadrant 4: Loyola-Maryland (H), Jacksonville (H), Grambling (H), North Dakota State (H), Central Arkansas (H)
Personally, I think the kenpom model is harsh on some of these teams. LMC and NDSU are both projected as Quadrant 3 teams by T-Rank and I feel have a good chance of ending up there. Grambling is another dark horse to reach Quadrant 3. The positive is that the majority of these teams project to the high side of Quadrant 4. Jacksonville could drop to Quadrant 5, but if they do, I expect they will be the only Q5 opponent we see.

Quadrant 5: Robert Morris (H)
I'll admit, this shocked me when I saw the kenpom numbers come out. T-Rank has RMU 78 spots higher in that ranking and second in their league. I'm not sure where the discrepancy is, but the Colonials return the bulk of a team that went 11-7 in their league last year while also adding two solid JUCO players. I feel confident saying this will be a Quadrant 4 team. Also, it's a good trend to see Marquette minimizing these games. Eleven from 2015-17, now just five projected from 2018-20. Well done by the schedule makers.

My final thoughts on the schedule are that there will be a little bit of a shakeup. I think Maryland should remain Q1A but expect that will be our only Q1A non-conference game. My expectation by the end of the season is that we have five games spread from Q1B, Q2A, and Q2B. I think that's the ideal schedule to bolster wins while also giving the Selection Committee some real quality to look at. On the buy end, I think it's more likely we end up with two Quadrant 3 and four Quadrant 4 games. That's a good way to spend money to get some decent wins while minimizing the number of true bottom-feeders.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Markus Howard Scoring Record Watch

As Marquette kicks off the 2019-20 season, one of the most anticipated moments of the season will be when Markus Howard breaks Jerel McNeal's all-time scoring record at Marquette. However, that's not the only record Howard has the chance to break this year. Howard begins his final season with 1,955 career points. Let's break down the scoring records Howard could pass as the soon-to-be-most-prolific scorer in Marquette history goes through his senior campaign.

I will go through these from the most likely to the least likely. I certainly don't expect Howard will pass all of these marks, but I do think he has a legitimate chance at most of them. If he gets the last one, Marquette will likely be spending the final weekend of the season in Atlanta, just like 1977. As the season progresses, I will keep a running tally (in blue) of where Howard is at, with all highlighted sections being accomplishments he has already surpassed.

31 Points -- All-time Marquette Men's Basketball Scoring Record (Jerel McNeal)
Howard will likely reach this mark in one of the first two games of the season, and almost certainly no later than the trip to Madison on November 17. Had he not been injured, he likely would've had this record before the end of last season. ***Howard surpassed this mark on November 5th against Loyola-Maryland.***

38 Points -- Markus Howard current 2019-20 scoring
Howard is up to 1,993 points for his career and averaging 38.0 points per game.

45 Points -- First 2,000 Point Scorer in Marquette Men's Basketball History
This is another mark that shouldn't take long. It could come as soon as the Purdue game on November 13 and certainly before the team heads to Orlando.

241 Points -- Top-10 All-Time Big East Scorers
This is small fish compared to what Howard could achieve on the year, but he could join the league's all-time top-10 during the Grambling game, assuming he roughly replicates last year's scoring pace.

250 Points -- All-time Marquette Basketball Scoring Record (Allazia Blockton)
I'll admit, I'm not a fan of comparing records between sports, but if I'm trying to include all the records, this is one of the records. Blockton established this mark last year and remains the only basketball player at Marquette to ever crest the 2,000 point plateau. As a slightly related aside, how nuts is it that last year's Marquette Women's team had 5 of the top-15 scorers in program history on the same squad? Anyway...at last year's pace, Howard would pass this mark in mid-December, either the Grambling or North Dakota State games.

258 Points -- All-time NCAA Brothers Scoring Record (Stephen & Seth Curry)
The Currys combined for 4,736 points. Markus' older brother Jordan scored 2,524 points for Central Arkansas. This record will likely fall in one of the games mentioned in the 250 point mark, but it's worth noting that the game after those two is against Central Arkansas. It seems likely Markus will either establish that record before or during that game against UCA. That might be a good time for Marquette to invite Jordan Howard to attend a game at the Fiserv Forum.

307 Points -- All-time "New" Big East Scoring Record (Trevon Blueitt)
Since the league reformation in 2013-14, it's Blueitt's 2,261 that stands atop the pile. Doug McDermott scored more for his career, but spent most of that career in the Missouri Valley, so he isn't counted here. This would also make Howard the 7th most prolific scorer in league history and is a number he could be expected to hit around the turn of the new year.

336* Points -- All-time Big East Scoring Record in Big East play (Lawrence Moten)
The asterisk is to note that this refers to conference games only. To break this record, Howard would have to average around 18.7 ppg in conference play. It's definitely a reachable mark, and could come after some of the marks listed below depending on how Howard plays in non-conference play. That would require Howard to average over 28.5 ppg in non-conference play, so expect this to occur before any of the marks below. If he has a season similar to last year, this record would fall around mid-February against Creighton or Providence.

570 Points -- All-time Howard Brother Scoring Record (Jordan Howard)
The brothers record would have fallen far earlier, but for Howard to become the family scoring leader, he'll need to score a bit more. At last year's pace, he would break this record on National Marquette Day against Butler.

678 Points -- All-time Big East Scoring Record (Troy Bell)
If this record falls, it will have stood for nearly 17 years. If Howard averages 21.9 ppg for the minimum 31 games Marquette will play this year. It seems likely he will play more games than that and score more points than that, so this should be within reach. At last year's pace, this record could fall at the end of February, possibly on national television against Seton Hall.

742 Points -- Top-25 All-time NCAA Scorers
Not an official record in and of itself, but to crack the top-25 all-time, Howard would have to score more in a single season than any Marquette player before him, but less than he scored a year ago. At last year's pace, this would happen on the final regular season game of the year against St. John's.

852 Points -- All-time Marquette Single Season Scoring Record (Markus Howard)
To establish the benchmark of expectations, Howard scored 851 points last year. That decimated the record set by Andrew Rowsey (716) the year before, but there is reason to think Howard can establish a new single-season scoring record for the third year running. First and foremost, Howard saw a downtick in his scoring after the injury suffered at the end of the Butler game, as his average dropped from 25.7 ppg before the injury (including the goose egg at Georgetown) to 22.9 ppg after. That 22.9 ppg was also far more inefficient, so with his usage in that span his scoring would've normally been expected to go up (he exceeded 40% usage 13 times last season, 6 of those were in the 8 games after the injury). This is a big number, but probably the baseline for expectations. At last year's pace, this would likely fall in postseason play.

966 Points -- All-time Big East Single Season Scoring Record (Kemba Walker)
Howard would have to break his record from last year by less of a margin than he broke Rowsey's mark a year ago, but this is a massive number. To illustrate, if Marquette went to the Big East Final and the Sweet 16, Howard would have to average over 26.8 ppg to break this record. It would also be one of the ten most prolific scoring seasons since the NCAA adopted the three-point line. Possible? Yes. Likely? No. And if it does happen, it is probably a great year for Marquette fans. This record likely wouldn't fall until the NCAA Tournament, and even then would require an impressive season.

1,045 Points -- 11th 3,000-point scorer in NCAA history
Now we're getting into the silly territory. This is highly unlikely, but if Marquette had a banner year (Big East title game and Final Four appearance) Howard could reach this mark by averaging 27.5 ppg. In the past 5 years, only 2 players have posted that kind of average, and neither did so for a high-major program. If this happens, it would almost certainly be deep into the NCAA Tournament.

1,054 Points -- Top-10 All-time NCAA Scorers
If he's going to crack the 3,000 mark, might as well swish a few more threes and climb into the all-time top-10. This would put him ahead of names like Hersey Hawkins, Oscar Robertson, and Larry Bird.

1,132 Points -- Modern NCAA Single Season Scoring Record (Bo Kimble)
If Marquette went to both the Big East Final and the NCAA Championship Game, Howard would have to average just over 29.0 points on the season to take down the biggest scoring season since the advent of the three-point line. This would also make Howard the seventh most prolific scorer in the history of the game. This is the mark that I consider to be about as far as I can stretch reality. Pete Maravich did have a bigger season than this, but records were not kept as accurately pre-1985, so this is the modern record. If by some miracle this one were to happen, get out the switchblades because we're cutting down nets in Atlanta again, which is about the same time we could expect this record to fall.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Marquette Preview

Marquette Golden Eagles
Coach: Steve Wojciechowski (97-69)
3-Year NCAA Rank Average: 49.0
3-Year kenpom Average: 39.3
2019-20 T-Rank Projection: 30

Projected Starters: PG Markus Howard (5'11" Sr), SG Koby McEwen (6'4" RS Jr), SF Sacar Anim (6'5" RS Sr), PF Brendan Bailey (6'9" So), C Theo John (6'9" Jr)

After a 3-2 start that had fans asking the same old questions, Marquette would only lose to one team in the three months from November 23 to February 23, both home and away to St. John's. They were ranked in the top-10 in the country, Markus Howard was a dark horse in the National Player of the Year race, and things were good in Milwaukee again. But an injury suffered by Howard against Butler and aggravated against Providence led to a 4-game losing streak, all with leads squandered in the final 10 minutes, that ended their Big East title dreams. After getting some revenge on St. John's in the Big East tournament, a controversial loss to Seton Hall and an embarrassing defeat to Murray State in the NCAA Tournament ended their season. Then, with hopes high for the next year, Sam and Joey Hauser, the second and third leading scorers, announced they were transferring, leaving the team with more question marks than answers as the top-5 too-early pundit rankings evaporated.

Marquette's offense will likely start and end with how far Howard, a preseason All-American, can carry them. He is a multi-faceted scorer who is lethal from three and has improved at driving and getting to the line. The hope will be that more ball-handlers will take the pressure off Howard, who is adequate handling the ball but whose raw turnover numbers are inflated by a massive usage rate. McEwen will the second line of ball handling defense and will hope that his return to a secondary role, which he played in his first season at Utah State, will return him to more efficient offensive play. Anim will be expected to take a larger offensive role, but the key will be consistency as he had wild swings in efficiency and scoring last season. Bailey is a wild card, as he flashed driving ability, shot well down the stretch, and is a plus defender. He has the tools to be an all-league player, but the same could've been said of Jamal Cain a year ago. John is more regarded for his defense and will hope that depth behind him mitigates foul trouble. The bench is deep, with big men Ed Morrow and grad transfer Jayce Johnson providing options and muscle in the front court, Jamal Cain giving length and rebounding on the wing, and Greg Elliott and freshman Symir Torrence providing length and athleticism in the back court. Don't be surprised to see a redshirt, with Torrence, Cain, or freshman Dexter Akanno the likeliest options.

Offensively, Marquette has been a high-efficiency team under Wojo, taking and making a lot of threes. That will change a bit with the Hausers gone as the plan is to utilize more two-post sets. That said, McEwen, Anim, Cain, and Elliott have all had seasons where they shot 36+% from three, so the potential for continued three-point accuracy is there. Expect Howard to spend more time off the ball in hopes of freeing him up at the arc and the increased strength inside to lead to more offensive rebounds and opportunities at the line. Defensively, Marquette is a team that prefers man-to-man and saw a big spike last year when their worst defender, Andrew Rowsey, graduated. Running two sub-six foot players led to disastrous results, but Wojo has been able to inject more length and athleticism. While the loss of the Hausers will hurt on offense, Marquette's defense should be significantly better as Joey Hauser wasn't much better than Rowsey on that end and Sam, though a fine defender in a team system, didn't have the athleticism and quickness that players like Bailey and Cain, who will replace his minutes, do have. This team should be better contesting shots, forcing turnovers, and controlling rebounds than they were a year ago, which will almost certainly lead to their best defense under Wojciechowski.

While the Hausers will be missed on offense, there are enough shooters and productive post players to offset, or at least minimize the impact of, that loss. This is also likely the best defensive team in the league, as the added length, quickness, and rim protection of players like McEwen, Elliott, & Johnson have the potential to make a strength even stronger. This team won't look like what Marquette fans are accustomed to under Wojo, but the defense is stout enough to hold down the fort until the offense catches up. Expect this team to be better in March than they are in November, and better than they were a year ago with the Hausers.

Marquette Memory: In 2002, Marquette traveled to Cincinnati with a chance to seize pole position in the Conference USA title race, but squandered a 4-point lead with 30 seconds to play, then followed that up by conceding a double-digit lead in the last 12 minutes in a loss to East Carolina 4 days later. Marquette would go on to earn a 5-seed in the NCAA Tournament but suffered a first-round loss. Adding insult to injury, starter Odartey Blankson transferred after the season. In 2019, Marquette squandered leads to Villanova, Creighton, Seton Hall, and Georgetown to throw away a Big East title. They earned a 5-seed in the NCAA Tournament and suffered a first-round loss. And then saw the Hausers transfer. The silver lining is the 2002-03 Marquette team, led by transcendent scorer Dwyane Wade, won Conference USA and went to the Final Four. We'll see what the 2019-20 Marquette team, led by transcendent scorer Markus Howard, can do in league play and beyond.

Friday, October 25, 2019

DePaul Preview

DePaul Blue Demons
February 1, fiserv.forum; March 3, Wintrust Arena, Chicago, IL
Coach: Dave Leitao (106-116 at DePaul, 191-211 overall)
3-Year NCAA Rank Average: 174.3
3-Year kenpom Average: 133.3
2019-20 T-Rank Projection: 139

Projected Starters: PG Devin Gage (6'2" Jr), SG Jalen Coleman-Lands (6'4" Sr), SF Romeo Weems (6'7" Fr), PF Paul Reed (6'9" Jr), C Jaylen Butz (6'9" Jr)

To start the New Year, DePaul was the ultimate "almost" team. They had squandered second-half leads of 14 points (Northwestern), 9 points (Boston College), and 6 points (Xavier) to lose. Hold on in those three games and they would've been a NIT lock and even had a chance to make things interesting as a fringe bubble team, especially with sweeps of fellow Big East bubble teams that did make the field in Seton Hall and St. John's. Instead, they went to the CBI, where they made it to the final before falling 2-1 in a best of three series to South Florida. Even still, DePaul finished with a winning record for the first time since 2007. Then they lost their top three scorers, Max Strus, Eli Cain, and Femi Olujobi, to graduation.

There are some reasons for optimism. Paul Reed is back and was picked to the preseason All-Big East Second Team after averaging 12.3 ppg/8.5 rpg last year. Jalen Coleman-Lands returns from injury and, along with Devin Gage, give hope of reliable complimentary scorers. Romeo Weems is a top-50 recruit who adds scoring and athleticism. Butz is a reliable presence while Charlie Moore, Darious Hall, and Lyrik Shreiner give them options off the bench.

On offense, Leitao likes to run a four-out one-in motion offense. Lots of cuts and screens to get the top scorers open. Last year that often led to Strus threes, but most of the time Leitao's teams will seek to use those cuts to drive inside, attacking the interior and crashing the offensive glass. With a front court of Butz, Reed, and Weems, there's reason to believe that will work. On the other end, it's tough to tell what will work. Leitao has only had a top-50 efficiency defense twice in his career. His first year at DePaul with Pat Kennedy's players and two years ago. So what made them successful in 2017-18? Frankly, I think it was a fluke. They did well at turning teams over, but in large part because they were top-50 in non-steal turnover percentage. Turnovers were their one real strength but more than half their turnovers came of the non-steal variety. While that includes taking charges, it also includes opposing players throwing the ball away, being out of control, or otherwise making any number of errors.

I really like Paul Reed. I like the potential of this front court crashing the boards. I even think Gage and Coleman-Lands can form a decent backcourt. But this is a team that finished last in the Big East and lost their top three scorers. It's hard to imagine them being better than they were a year ago. Maybe in two years, when the juniors are seniors and Weems has some experience, this team can claw their way up the league, but this year it just doesn't seem possible. DePaul did beat some tourney teams last year and will probably win a few they shouldn't, but any finish higher than 10th would be a massive accomplishment for this team.

Marquette Memory: In every season that ends without a NCAA Tournament bid, there are moments that can be pointed to as to why. In the 2015-16 season, there were three. The opening night loss to Belmont. The James Milliken three at the Bradley Center that sealed Creighton's road win. And then there was the DePaul game at home. The largest lead for either team had been 6 points, but when Duane Wilson's tip in with 8 seconds to play put Marquette up 56-54, it seemed the game was over. Instead, Billy Garrett drove right down the heart of the Marquette defense and Luke Fischer seemed to realize he couldn't make the stop so instead allowed Garrett to score, forcing overtime. Somehow, despite Fischer allowing the basket without resistance, the refs called a foul and sent Garrett to the line with 1.1 to play. Unlike the foul, the free throw was no phantom and Marquette lost another nailbiter, and along with the aforementioned losses, any hopes of postseason play for Henry Ellenson.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Butler Preview

Butler Bulldogs
January 24, Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN; February 9, fiserv.forum
Coach: LaVall Jordan (37-31 at Butler, 48-55 overall)
3-Year NCAA Rank Average: 40.0
3-Year kenpom Average: 39.0
2019-20 T-Rank Projection: 60

Projected Starters: PG Aaron Thompson (6'2" Jr), SG Kamar Baldwin (6'1" Sr), SF Sean McDermott (6'6" Sr), PF Jordan Tucker (6'7" Jr), C Derrik Smits (7'1" Sr)

Butler started last year 3-0. They never again strung three straight wins together on the season and never won two straight against top-100 opposition, which is problematic when you play in the Big East. That led to their first losing season since the ill-fated 2013-14 season under Brandon Miller. It was a significant step back after Jordan's initial success with Chris Holtmann's leftovers.The real struggles came in road games as the Bulldogs were just 2-10 in away games, and both wins came over teams ranked 100 or lower in Pomeroy. And as above, that is problematic when you play in the Big East.

Butler returns most of that team that still managed to make the NIT. Baldwin, Thompson, and McDermott started every game for the Bulldogs and Tucker became a spot starter once he became eligible. Baldwin has established himself as the ball-dominant leader, but he is a low-efficiency, high-usage player who has seen his offensive rating decline every year since he arrived at Hinkle. One of Butler's main problems is that their highest efficiency returning starters, McDermott and Thompson, are sub-20% usage players. The only other returning player above 20% usage was Tucker, who was even less efficient than Baldwin. Smits joins as a grad transfer from Valpo, but his usage and efficiency last season was more similar to Baldwin than McDermott. This is a team that seems to prioritize who dominates the ball in an inverse fashion to how they should. They do have the makings of a good bench, with Henry Baddley and Christian David returning and joined by Milwaukee transfer Bryce Nze and four-star freshman Khalif Battle.

On offense, LaVall Jordan claims to prioritize transition and efficiency, but the Butler way has long been slow-down, methodical offense that tries to get shots close to the basket. He hasn't changed that formula. At their best, they want to run pick-and-roll constantly and create options out of that. Defensively, Jordan cited their struggles last year as being due to a lack of versatility. They couldn't handle the physicality of Big East play and often got caught in rotation. The hope is that this year's roster is better equipped for that.

Butler was generally a tough out last year, but they still were out more often than not. In a normal year, the experience gained would be enough to move them up the standings, but virtually everyone ahead of them returns as much or more. Further, I'm of the opinion that Kamar Baldwin is the worst best player on any team in the Big East. He's ball dominant and inefficient. Consider this, in games when Baldwin had a 100+ offensive rating, Butler went 15-4. In games where he was sub-100, they went just 1-13. Butler went as Baldwin went, and if he's not playing well, they are virtually assured of losing. I think they will be better than last year, but expect that simply won't be enough to do any better than another NIT berth.

Marquette Memory: Marquette hadn't won at Hinkle Fieldhouse since 1990 when they came in to face the 13th ranked Bulldogs for a matinee on January 16, 2017. In the first half, everything was coming up Blue and Gold. A 14-3 run to end the half saw Marquette to a 16-point lead at the break and it looked certain the 27-year drought would end. The lead got up to 18 before Butler mounted their comeback, and once it started, it came like a freight train. It took just over 10 minutes and a 35-16 run for Butler to take the lead. Marquette did battle back to take another lead with 5:29 to go, but the Bulldogs finished on a 23-12 tear en route to an 88-80 Butler win and extended Marquette's Hinkle losing streak that wouldn't be broken until earlier this year.