With the men’s NCAA Tournament underway and Northwestern’s season officially over, it’s time to break down the 9-15 rollercoaster season from the Wildcats and the performances of each individual player. Next up is Chase Audige, the redshirt sophomore transfer from William & Mary.
After losing their last star transfer Pat Spencer to graduation, Wildcat fans were eager to see what the newcomer from William & Mary could do. After sitting out last season, Audige came into 2020-2021 ready to make an impact, and he did exactly that.
From his first game in the nonconference all the way through the Big Ten Tournament, Audige was one of the brightest spots on the team and a player that Chris Collins’ squad relied on to score points.
However, during Northwestern’s 13-game losing streak, he showed he has plenty of room for improvement in the coming years.
The following numbers are from KenPom.com
At first glance, it appears that Audige does just about everything on the court. He’s a jack of all trades, master of none. Having put up an impressive rookie season at William & Mary, the Wildcat fanbase knew it was getting an athletic player who could defend, but the main concern was how he could take his scoring abilities and transition them into the brutal Big Ten. However, he quickly showed that he would be incredibly valuable on both ends of the court.
The 6-foot-4 guard from Coram, New York, shot the ball and a respectable 40% from the field and 34% from three to finish averaging 12.6 points per game. He also added 3.5 rebounds a game — good for fourth on the team — and his 44 assists on the season were the team’s second-best. He is capable of doing just about everything on the court, and with a usage rate of 27%, a lot of the offense runs through him. If Audige can continue his consistent play and somehow bolster those numbers, he has the opportunity to be remembered by Northwestern fans for many years to come.
The following stats are taken from hoop-math.com
Audige’s 277 field goal attempts were tied for the most with junior Miller Kopp, and those shots were scattered all around the court: 22% at the rim, 43% from behind the arc and 33% from midrange.
For someone as athletic and long as Audige, it’s a bit surprising not to see him go to the rim more, especially knowing how good he is around the basket. However, he proved he can shoot. While he’s eighth on NU’s roster in three-point percentage, no one shot more threes than him. Out of the three players who attempted over 100 threes on the team (Audige, Kopp, Buie), Audige trails only Buie in three-point percentage.
With only 9.4% of two-point jumpers being assisted, his capability to create his own shot served him well. Especially when his team needed it, he was able to create his own shots down the stretch on many occasions, proving he was a reliable offensive leader.
Audige shows that he can get it done on both ends of the court. He backed his defensive reputation coming into Evanston with his 34 steals in just 23 games, averaging 1.5 per game which is good for third in the Big Ten. But it was his seamless ability to score the ball in the Big Ten that surprised most.
He wasted no time introducing himself, as he averaged 15.5 points in his first four games. In addition to a smattering of other numerically impressive games, the highlight of Audige’s season came against the Big Ten Tournament’s runner-up and top-10 team Ohio State, against whom he put up 25 points. One month later, he scored 22 against the Big Ten Champions and No. 2 team in the country, Illinois. He can run with the best and score against the best.
In many crucial scenarios, Northwestern relied on Audige to be the go-to guy. As Buie struggled offensively at times, Audige held more of a playmaking role. His versatility on offense and defensive prowess made him the complete package at many times down the stretch, most notably against Indiana with a couple of huge baskets in the second half.
As good as a transition Audige had from CAA basketball to the Big Ten, it did come with some flaws. However, most are self-inflicted and can be easily fixed.
His first area of difficulty was turnovers, as Audige led the team with 55. Pointing back to his 27% usage rate, with the ball more in his hands, the probability of turning the ball over is higher. Nevertheless, with great power comes great responsibility.
Second, he struggled from the free-throw line. His 54.4% from the charity stripe was third to last on the team, ahead of only Matthew Nicholson and Eric Zalewski who combined for only six free throw attempts. Moving forward with being potentially the key player on this team, this is one category in which he needs to improve.
Lastly, Audige was responsible for many fouls and often found himself in trouble in that category. He is an aggressive player on defense, and we’ve seen this tenacity pay off — represented by his 1.5 steals per game. But he led the team with 70 personal fouls and had 13 games in which he had three or more fouls and finished with four in seven of those games. He also fouled out in two other games and was responsible for a few technical fouls over the course of the season. For someone the ‘Cats are looking at to lead this team, they need Audige on the court as much as possible and in pressure situations.
The Bottom Line
Audige was certainly a bright spot during a challenging season for Collins’ squad. He was a significant contributor on both offensive and defensive and brought crucial energy as one of the most reliable players on both ends of the court. However, moving forward, Audige needs to be more consistent, especially in the first half of games. If he can find that consistency, resolve his self-inflicted problems and continue to play such aggressive basketball, he will officially take over the star role on Northwestern’s roster for the next two seasons.