If you follow me on Twitter, you know I believe Jajuan Johnson is being massively underused.
There’s a reason that people were excited about his commitment to Marquette. There’s also a reason that he should play more for the Golden Eagles: He has played well this season.
Here are Johnson’s statistics in games that he has played 17 or more minutes this season (brought to my attention by the Daily Eagle):
28 of 47 from the field (59.6 percent), 7 of 14 on threes (50 percent), 12 of 14 from the free throw line (85.7 percent), 12.5 points per game.
Oh, and Paint Touches (yes, that Paint Touches) pointed out to me on Twitter today that his percentage at the rim is an impressive 71 percent.
Johnson has played 17 or more minutes six times this season. In those six games, Marquette is 5-1. While those five victories were against inferior opposition, the Golden Eagles won by an average of 32 points. In their other four victories, the team has won by an average of 9.5 points (he didn’t even play against DePaul, which was a 10 point win and was included in the average).
In the one game against what I would call a quality opponent that Johnson played 17 minutes or more, he scored nine points, while accumulating three rebounds and three assists at Arizona State, while committing just one turnover.
The freshman followed up that performance against the Sun Devils with what should have been a breakout 18 points against Cal State Fullerton. Instead of being rewarded for his stellar play, Johnson played a combined 30 minutes in the next three games, two of which the Golden Eagles lost. He played 27 in that win over Cal State Fullerton.
All of those stats help me make one simple statement: Marquette has been better this season when Jajuan Johnson plays.
The Golden Eagles rotation is allegedly determined by how well the players practice, and defense is a large factor that goes into distributing minutes during games. I get that. Unfortunately, those factors have led to one of the team’s best players being on the bench while the team consistently struggles.
I wish it made sense. I actually looked harder for stats that make a case for Johnson not to play. Johnson committed three turnovers in the victory against IUPUI and then three more against Samford. That’s not good, right?
It’s not bad enough, though. What is bad enough is the team’s record and current NCAA Tournament résumé. The main rotation that Marquette has used so far this season isn’t working. The players that find themselves on the court the most are not getting the job done, especially those that are getting significant minutes ahead of Johnson. I’m not trying to put that much pressure on Johnson. I hope he receives an opportunity to consistently play as much as Todd Mayo and Jake Thomas do in Marquette’s backcourt.
The late, great Owen Hart once said, many times actually, "Enough is enough, and it’s time for a change." I concede that I, along with many others that follow Marquette, am spoiled to a consistently successful team. Three consecutive Sweet Sixteens and an Elite Eight appearance tend to have that effect.
What the Golden Eagles are doing right now isn’t working and doesn’t look like turning the corner anytime this season. Fortunately, they have a solution that can help fix their biggest problem, which is scoring the basketball consistently.
I don’t care how much it might affect Marquette on the other end of the court. The team needs to start winning and beating quality opposition. The current rotation hasn’t, so why not change it up and give someone who deserves an opportunity his shot? If it’s broken, try to fix it.
Jajuan Johnson might not be able to save the Golden Eagles’ season, but he’s done enough to merit an opportunity to help them win some meaningful games.