Now that the men’s NCAA tournament has come to a conclusion, it is time for college basketball fans to reflect on the past season before setting their sights on the future. For us, that means breaking down the performance of each player on Northwestern’s men’s basketball team. This edition covers Chase Audige, the former William & Mary transfer, who had an interesting junior campaign to say the least.
Coming off an impressively productive 2020-21 season his first year playing in Evanston, the Audige’s second go-around warranted high expectations. Unfortunately, the redshirt-junior began the year from the sideline due to a hip injury that caused him to miss the opening seven games of the year. After he fully recovered, Audige reentered the starting lineup — but, with just a few games under his belt, it was apparent that his role had shifted.
His usage rate and minutes dropped in large part due to shooting struggles. However he made strides this year in other areas despite playing the lowest number of minutes per game in his career. This would discourage many players from being aggressive, however Audige remained as seemingly confident in his shot regardless, which served to both as a detriment and benefit to the ‘Cats in 2021-22.
The following stats are from KenPom.com
Audige led the team in scoring his sophomore season but saw his usage rate decrease this year, putting him at fourth highest on the team and resulting in a 2.5 point drop off his points per game. Despite not being the number one option offensively, he played more like an upperclassman — he shot a much improved 70 percent from the line and averaged one less turnover a game this season. His nearly 20 percent improvement from the charity stripe didn’t show from the field or from behind the arc this season, as he made only a quarter of his three-point attempts and had a field-goal percentage below 35.
His defensive ability kept him on the court, though, as he led the team in steals by a wide margin while also having the fewest fouls per game in his career. Additionally, his offensive and defensive rebounding percentages improved, which allowed him to increase his offensive rating this year despite shooting a lower percentage.
The following stats are taken from hoop-math.com
Looking at the stats, it becomes pretty obvious that shot selection was an issue this season for Audige, seeing as he shot just 25 percent from behind the arc but still chose to have over 40 percent of his field-goals come from three. In addition, over 30 percent of his shot attempts were long twos despite him converting these with the second lowest percentage in the rotation (only Julian Roper II’s percentage is lower at 15.8 percent).
The most unfortunate part of these two statistics is that Audige is shooting them off the dribble the majority of the time. He hosts the second lowest percentage of assisted jump-shots, ahead of only Boo Buie. Of course, there are exceptions if the shot-clock is low, but for the most part Audige is choosing these shots instead of getting to the basket or passing the ball off for a better opportunity.
His assist rate was even lower than his sophomore season and he is only shooting 26.5 percent of his shots at the rim. As the only Northwestern guard to shoot better than 50 percent there, Audige should look to attack the basket more in 2022-23, especially considering his improved free-throw percentage.
Audige’s shooting is reminiscent of the Kobe Bryant quote: “I’d rather go 0-for-30 than 0-for-9.” This was later reiterated by Dion Waiters, a player who seemingly has a similar mindset to Audige on the offensive end. He always shoots the ball with confidence, like Waiters, regardless of how he’s shooting on a particular day — something that is easier said than done.
Audige walks into every game a confident shooter, and he has the ability to take over big games offensively. Take his 23-point game against Wisconsin or his 20-point game at Ohio State. Both these teams were ranked inside the top 15 when Northwestern played them, and both times Audige shot efficiently from the field, shooting a combined 54.8 percent from the field and 55.6 percent from three.
In addition to this, Audige is a major positive on the defensive side, which was much needed considering Northwestern was often undersized in the guard position this season. He can create turnovers and will bring it defensively regardless of how he’s shooting.
Of course, Audige’s confidence offensively can also be his downfall. He’ll often take ill-advised shots with significant time remaining on the shot-clock. In addition to this, he often fails to change his offensive approach when his shot isn’t falling, which means he usually remains a high volume shooter regardless of whether or not he’s currently a high volume maker.
This isn’t helped by the fact that Audige is a below average passer for a Big Ten guard, which allows teams to key in on him and force him into even tougher shots. Audige will likely have an opportunity to take on a larger role offensively with the departure of Pete Nance and Ryan Greer, meaning that in order for Northwestern to be successful, he must make strides in his distribution and shot selection.
In order to improve his shot selection, Audige will need to become a better catch-and-shoot player, primarily from behind the arc. It’s clear how few of Audige’s shots are assisted on, and a lot of this stems from the fact that he’s more comfortable shooting off the dribble.
If he can prove to be a more respectable shooter from outside, it’ll open up lanes for Audige to do what he does best: finish at the rim. Improving his outside shot will also create more spacing on the offensive end, making it easier for his teammates to attack the basket or get open looks on the perimeter.
The Bottom Line
Next season will be Audige’s fifth season in college and his third and potentially final year playing for the ‘Cats, meaning it needs to be the year where he puts it all together. He has shown flashes of greatness, however in his senior year he’ll need to show his maturity by taking high percentage shots and recognizing when it’s not his night. A lot will fall on the shoulders of the New York native if the ‘Cats are to have a successful upcoming season.