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Junior Cadougan: Time to score

Junior Cadougan has averaged a career-high in points this year, and that should improve against Davidson. (USA Today)

Junior Cadougan has averaged a career-high in points this year, and that should improve against Davidson. (USA Today)

Junior Cadougan’s struggles in postseason play have been well-documented. Eight turnovers in last year’s Big East Tournament loss to Louisville. A no-show in last year’s loss to Florida in the Sweet 16. A 1-of-7 shooting performance two years ago against the Cardinals in New York City.

The spotlight is on Marquette’s point guard as soon as postseason play begins, and his head coach is quick to back him up. A quote that has always stuck to Cadougan is when Buzz Williams said he wouldn’t trade Cadougan for any point guard in the country. And he means it. He even called this author out after last year’s win over Murray State on being too critical of Cadougan’s play.

And yet, for the perceived notion that Cadougan has crumbled once regular season play is over, the numbers prove otherwise.

Excluding his freshman season in which he played just 47 minutes, Cadougan’s numbers the last three seasons arguably are better in the postseason than the regular season. Consider this:

In 90 career regular season games after his freshman season, Cadougan has averaged 6.0 points, 2.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.2 turnovers per game.

In 11 career postseason games after his freshman season, Cadougan has averaged 7.8 points, 2.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 2.6 turnovers.

The assists and turnovers could use improving, yet taking out Cadougan’s game against Louisville, one in which Buzz Williams said he “peed himself,” his assists move to 3.6 per game, and the turnovers are down to 2.1 per game.

But the number to focus on here is Cadougan’s improved scoring numbers once tournament play begins. For three years the senior has been looked at as a pass-first point guard, which has been the case up until now. Without Lazar Hayward, Jimmy Butler, Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder, he has taken on an inevitable scoring load, and done well.

His sophomore and junior seasons, Cadougan scored in double figures 10 times. This season alone, he has accomplished that feat in 14 different games. His career-high entering his senior season was 15, a number he has reached or exceeded six times. His assists are down this year, from 5.4 to a still-respectable 4.1, proving he’s more than just a distributor in Marquette’s offense.

And against Davidson he’ll get another chance to improve his postseason scoring totals, and it’s in the numbers.

The Wildcats have played man-to-man defense 94.5 percent of the time this season, and statistically their three best defenders, based on points per possession, are wing Chris Czerapowicz (0.694 PPP allowed), forward De’Mon Brooks (0.761) and forward Jake Cohen (0.769). Fourth on the list is sixth man Clint Mann (0.805), who is probable for Thursday’s game.

But Davidson’s guard play, specifically the ones who will guard Cadougan tomorrow afternoon, have struggled and could give Marquette’s point guard a chance to succeed and add to his postseason scoring numbers.

PG2

Despite a solid team defense rating (0.839; 71st percentile), the Wildcats’ point guard situation has been shaky. As examples of this season, it made sense to track how opposing teams’ point guards fared individually against Davidson.

Our data tracked the six point guards on the highest-ranked teams, per KenPom.com, that Davidson faced this year. Also included is Peyton Siva, who took on the Wildcat point guards in last year’s NCAA Tournament.

PG1

Assists were down and turnovers hovered around average, which makes sense given the Wildcats’ low assists-against mark (fifth in the country). But five of the seven point guards scored more points against Davidson than their eventual season averages, with Lindsay and Cherry coming within a basket to matching.

This bodes well for Cadougan’s scoring chances Thursday afternoon. Based on a small sample size of film on Davidson, Cadougan is quicker than anyone the Wildcats tout, and his size and strength means he should have a (relatively) easy time getting to the basket and, at the very least, create paint touches.

Cadougan scored 14 points against the Irish last week, making up for last year’s debacle against Louisville. And he can make up for last year’s goose egg in the points column against Florida by scoring against the Wildcats.

The stats say he should.

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