In reading Mark’s detailed scouting report of Davidson on Monday, I couldn’t help but sit in awe of Nik Cochran. Yes, his free-throw shooting is Novakian, going 112-119 this season for a ridiculous 94.1 percent accuracy, but it was his outside shooting that had my eyes bulging.
Cochran has hit a ridiculous 48.5 percent of his 101 shots from beyond the arc, tied for 13th best in the country. Lest you think the sample size was small or simply an aberration, the 101 attempts would be second most on Marquette, only 12 behind Vander Blue and 18 ahead of Jamil Wilson.
That number kept popping into my head because, as most Marquette fans can attest, the Golden Eagles have had problems in the past with hot shooters. Louisville’s Mike Marra went 6-10 from 3-point land in the quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament in 2011 en route to an 81-56 dismantling by the Cardinals.
You don’t have to look back two years to find another time Marquette was hurt from long distance by a hot shooter. Heck, you don’t even have to look back two games. In case it was deleted from your memory during the St. Patrick’s Day festivities, Notre Dame’s Pat Connaughton lit up Marquette last Thursday, also going 6-10 from 3-point land, snuffing out any and all late runs.
Marquette also allowed an opponent to shoot at least 50 percent from three when taking at least five attempts five times this conference season with Darrun Hilliard, Worrel Clahar, Shabazz Napier, and Lamar Patterson (twice) getting in on the action. That shows that though Marquette does a decent job at defending the three — opponents are only shooting 31.8 percent, the 76th best number in the country — it is susceptible to giving them up in bunches to a hot shooter.
There are a few candidates on the Wildcats who could copy the Connaughton script. Though Chris Czerapowicz and Tyler Kalinosky have taken and made more threes for Davidson than Cochrane has, neither tops 40 percent in accuracy, leaving us with Cochran as the main suspect.
As such, I decided to take a look at every three he has attempted (or at least the ones captured on video at Synergy as some of the games were not available) to see what, if any, patterns would emerge.
The red areas above are where Cochran has been most deadly, which has been just about everywhere. He thrives on the right side of the court though, shooting 66 percent from the baseline and 57 percent from the elbow extended. Those are video game-like numbers.
His weakest spot on the floor is the left elbow where he is hitting at a sub 34 percent rate. The shot from straight away is his second-weakest spot, but at almost 40 percent, I wouldn’t call that weak by any stretch of the imagination. Case in point, he can hit from wherever, but forcing him to the left side of the court is the best statistical option.
When looking at the video clips, I also noticed a trend that he very rarely shot off the dribble with almost every three coming off a spot-up jumper that was assisted. Going back to track it the results were so astounding a pie graph was needed for full effect.
With almost 82 percent of Cochran’s treys coming off assisted spot up shots, it will be imperative for Marquette’s defense to not sag off him much when doubling down low and to not go under screens if at all possible. Granted, I’m sure Buzz was telling his team this throughout the game against Notre Dame, but a few defensive lapses could be the difference between surviving and advancing.
Davidson’s quick passing helps to create a lot of the openings for him to shoot (with Jake Cohen in particular finding him on the baseline with some one-touch passing) but they also run a very effective off-ball screen for him.
Be sure to click on the image above to see it enlarged, or keep reading as I break it down frame by frame.
The play begins with all five players on the perimeter in a reverse flying V with the ball at the top of the arc.
The defense here was quite bad, as Cohen’s defender didn’t realize that his teammate was stuck in a screen and didn’t help out on Cochran. Against Marquette, should they be playing man-to-man, this would be Chris Otule or Davante Gardner sliding over to cover the shooter. This still leaves you vulnerable if executed correctly, as Cohen will be left matched up against a much smaller defender. Just take a look at that screen he sets, it doesn’t get much better than that.
The key for Marquette will be to deny passing lanes and pressure the ball handler. As I noted before, Davidson does a great job at working the ball both around and inside and out with precision, turning it over very rarely.
As it pertains to Cochran, having a defender on him will cause him fits, as he simply cannot create his own shot and doesn’t blow by many defenders. Whether it’s Blue or Junior, someone has to body him up at all times.
One final note is that Cochran has not shown very well against Tournament quality opponents, going 1-8 against Duke, New Mexico and Montana with his only good outing coming against Gonzaga where he hit three of six 3-pointers. That’s not to say he will struggle, but rather length can bother him and disrupt his rhythm.
Thursday can’t come soon enough.