Much like the analysis of Vander Blue from a few weeks ago, this topic began with a simple question: What’s wrong with Junior Cadougan? Let me rephrase that. Why does it seem that Junior is regressing instead of taking a step forward in his development? Its not that he’s playing terribly—he’s ninth in assists in the Big East and eighth in assists per game—but rather production has not met expectation.
Mark and I have gone on record as saying Junior is this team’s most important player, and I still stand by that assertion, making his perceived poor play even more problematic. It’s too simple to simply say Marquette’s poor play is a result of Cadougan’s struggles, but I was interested to see if there was any correlation to the belief that the senior was in fact struggling.
I consider myself to be a little bit of a stats freak, not in the sense that I’m any good with them, but rather that I love looking into numbers and trying to figure out patterns. Stats are a very useful tool when used to complement assumptions, because taken simply on their own, they can be massaged to match whatever you desire.
With this in mind, I wanted to measure Cadougan’s November this season to his past two Novembers (he was out injured his freshman season) in order to get a better read on whether my assumptions of his overall game early on in the season were justified.
Sample size is always an issue when delving into stats only seven games into a season, but by isolating each season into one month increments that are related in time of the year, number of practices and number of games, we can make the best of the limited stats that we have.
We begin with Junior’s bread and butter, his assists. Cadougan was at his best the past two seasons when he was creating for others, and did quite well overall, finishing fifth in the conference last season
As you can tell from the graphs above he’s not setting the world on fire by any stretch of the imagination, but they aren’t “bad.” He had a tremendous start to last season from a passer’s perspective and cooled down as the schedule got tougher. Overall he is averaging 1.8 assists less per game this November.
Still, the more worrying part is that he is only averaging 1.3 more assists from his sophomore season, when his limits were limited and he shared point duties with Dwight Buycks.
Pure assists totals can be a bit deceptive though, as a team’s offensive prowess can skew digits up or down. A more meaningful measure is KenPom’s assist rate, which is an estimate of the percentage of teammate field goals a player assisted while he was on on the floor. Here you can clearly see that Cadougan’s numbers are slightly down from last year, but up substantially from 2011.
Diving a bit more deeply into the muck, we can see that most of Junior’s assists are going to the big men. Of the 30 he has dished out, 19 have gone to forwards or centers, and that’s not including Juan Anderson in that designation. What that tells us is what anyone with eyes knows, Marquette’s back court is weak. I didn’t track down every Cadougan pass that “should” have been an assist, but I’m sure the number is significant.
One other takeaway from this graph is how little Cadougan assists Blue, even though Vander has made the second most shots on the team with 29. If you have an answer to that riddle, I’m sure Brent.Williams@marquette.edu would be interested.
On top of dishing out dimes, the limited nature of Marquette’s backcourt and Cadougan’s own increased assertiveness led me to believe he would become a staple of the offense; not just to get things going, but to finish them himself.
The graph above shows his shooting splits, and it’s sort of a mixed bag. On the one hand, it’s great to see such a marked improvement at the free throw line each year, from a putrid 33.3 percent in 2011 to 63.6 percent last year to 73.3 percent this season.
All free throws are not made the same, however, as one of Cadougan’s misses at the stripe (against Butler in Maui) came in the last ten seconds of the game and led to shot that shall not be named being a game winner rather than simply sending it to overtime. Still, if Cadougan were to continue to shoot at a 73 percent clip the rest of the way, there would be no complaints coming from me.
On the other hand, Junior’s abysmal three-point shooting has seen little to no progress in his time in Milwaukee. Shooting 21 percent from the arc simply will not cut it. You can see Cadougan has no faith in his shot at this point in time, as he air-balled two long jumpers against Florida. Marquette needs him to make that shot at least one of three times to have any shot at busting up packed defenses the rest of the year.
His overall field goal percentage is also down seven points from last season, hovering at just under 35 percent. This again can be attributed to a confidence issue as Junior doesn’t seem to have full faith in his shot. He has shown a few flashes of a pull-up around the free-throw line (a shot he used to great effect in hitting four straight jumpers against Butler), but flashes don’t mean much unless they can be harnessed regularly.
The competition has been relatively similar to last year, although quite weaker than in 2011, using the KenPom ratings. The average rank fell from 151 to 211 last year, before going up a tad this year to 198 at the time of publication. In lamens terms, the competition has been similar through this stage, further validating our month-to-month comparison.
This chart above, however, is the most telling of the bunch. I noted Junior has become a much more accomplished shooter from the line, but it won’t do much good as the attempts per game has significantly dropped. This is a huge area of concern for Marquette as a team, not simply Cadougan as a player.
Junior isn’t the fastest of guards, but has demonstrated the ability to finish at the rim when given the chance. Two years ago it was a miracle. Last year it was a nice bonus. This year it’s a necessity, yet, the decrease in free throws per game shows he’s not being aggressive enough. Cadougan is settling for jumpers way too often and is not making enough of them to justify his decisions. Plain and simple, this number needs to go up, and it can’t wait.
It’s a bit more difficult to assess the reasons behind his lack of aggressiveness as I was only able to watch the tape on three of the seven games, but from the little that I did observe, it’s clear Cadougan is just settling for jumpers too often. From my read of box scores, 28 of his 43 shots he has this year were either jumpers or threes, a full 65 percent. Of those 28, 11 have gone in for around 40 percent effectivity.
Finally, this graph surprised me the most out of any other. It feels like Cadougan has been a turnover machine, when in reality he’s been quite good, and a bit better than last year.
Maui was not kind to the Canadian-born point guard, as he committed 12 of his 15 turnovers in those three games. On the whole, though, Buzz has to be happy with the way Cadougan is protecting the ball.
There are two main differences from last year, but the whole “NBA players aren’t here” bit can only be used for so long. Marquette needs Junior Cadougan to not only match last year’s numbers, but exceed them. He needs teammates to hit more shots (paging Todd Mayo). He needs to start making threes, or at least shoot them with less frequency. Most of all, he needs to be more aggressive at attacking the paint. This won’t be easy with the lack of shooters to keep defenses honest, but Cadougan needs to assert himself more and create those spaces.
Easier said than done.