When freshman Junior Cadougan crumbled to the Kasten gym floor in September 2009 with a torn Achilles tendon , it left an already thin point-guard position even weaker. The top-100 recruit was expected to play a significant role on Marquette’s second unit, but a four-to-six month rehabilitation prognosis ended those talks for the foreseeable future.
The injury left senior Maurice Acker — who had been kicked off the team and reinstated that summer — as the team’s only true point guard. As the year progressed Darius Johnson-Odom, Dwight Buycks and David Cubillan, all shooting guards by nature, saw some time at the point — primarily Cubillan — when Acker wasn’t playing his 29.2 minutes per game.
The Golden Eagles now find themselves in a similar situation after it was announced that freshman point guard Duane Wilson suffered a stress fracture in his left leg and will miss “multiple weeks.” An unconfirmed report from a Marquette Radio program said that Wilson could miss 8 to 12 weeks with the injury, though his immediate timetable is unknown. A source told Paint Touches that a potential redshirt for Wilson has not been decided on, though is not out of the question if his rehabilitation goes slower than planned.
Wilson was expected to man the second unit behind junior Derrick Wilson, but he’ll be off the depth chart for now. Behind Derrick Wilson, the only other point guard on the roster is incoming freshman John Dawson, who is more of a project than anything. He could see more run, but he doesn’t appear to be someone who can step right in and play 15+ minutes per game. Some players will see minutes at point guard for the first times in their careers while Duane Wilson recovers from his injury.
But let’s go back to that 2009-10 season. Cadougan’s injury depleted the position further, and it forced players to take on roles they weren’t expecting just two months before the season began — far less time than the Golden Eagles’ current team has now. The biggest key was to stay efficient on the offensive end. It wasn’t plausible to ask shooting guards to become true point guards in a matter of months. Instead, Williams’ team goals involved playing within the offense and being successful by limiting mistakes rather than making “true” point-guard plays, and that’s exactly what it did.
That team played at 63.7 adjusted possessions per game, the 42nd slowest pace in the country — to put that in perspective, Williams’ four other teams have averaged the 117th fastest pace. Cubillan saw time at point guard, but it wasn’t as much the traditional sense of the position as it was the 6-foot sharpshooter bringing the ball up the court and initiating offense.
That 2010 team couldn’t afford to take many chances, and they didn’t. They had to play smarter than they did aggressive, and that’s what they did. Granted, they played at a snail’s pace, but the Golden Eagles’ 10.4 turnovers per game were seventh fewest in the country. At the same time, Williams’ bunch was efficient, averaging 15.2 assists per game, tied for 36th most. Put those two numbers together and it’s not surprising that the Golden Eagles were sixth best in the country in assist-to-turnover rate (1.46).
Without Duane Wilson, the Golden Eagles may play at a pace similar to 2010. That team was led in scoring by Lazar Hayward and Jimmy Butler, who manned Marquette’s two forward positions in the paint (back when 6-foot-6 and 6-foot-5 were considered Marquette’s “bigs”). Now, with Chris Otule, Davante Gardner and Jamil Wilson in the mix down low, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Marquette again slow the pace down, work through their bigs and see a significant amount of points in the paint each night. It’s worth noting that this style doesn’t come about just because Wilson is hurt; Marquette was going to play big either way, but without a true backup point guard they’ll need to rely inside even further.
The one statistic with that 2010 team, however, that may be different than this year’s team was outside shooting. The Golden Eagles shot better than 41 percent from beyond the arc (41.3 percent), the fourth best mark in the country, and made 274, the 22nd highest number that year. This year’s team doesn’t have such firepower from deep, though Mayo and freshman Jajuan Johnson are x-factors in that category.
More likely, Marquette will rely on that interior to produce the lion’s share of points while the offense rotates in “point guards,” including Mayo, Johnson and Dawson. Duane Wilson’s injury isn’t a massive blow to Marquette as Williams’ team has dealt with injuries well — that 2010 team won 22 games — but it will require others to step up and fill in during his absence, all while playing slightly out of position.