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2015-16 Marquette Basketball Player Preview: #5 Sandy Cohen

After a week plus of newcomers to the program, we get to talk about the guys that are returning from last year.

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The 2015-16 college basketball season is right around the corner, so let's get into the Marquette basketball roster and take a look at what to expect from each player this season. We'll be going through the players one by one, starting with the freshmen, moving on to the lone available transfer, and then wrapping up with the four returning players, going in order of average minutes played per game last season.

Last year, we made a slight adjustment as to how we look at the players' upcoming season, and it seemed to work better, so we'll stick with the same three category headings this year:

What I Think We'll See
What I Want To See
What I Don't Want To See

With that out of the way, let's dig into the first preview for a returning player....

Sandy Cohen

Sophomore - #5 - Forward - 6'6" - 200 lb.

Sandy Cohen had an up and down path to Marquette, and that was followed by an up and down freshman campaign.  After committing and signing with the Golden Eagles while Buzz Williams was still the head coach, he was left with the option of asking for his release after Williams left for Virginia Tech.  There was a brief moment where a misunderstanding existed between Cohen and Marquette where he thought he had been released, but that was before Steve Wojciechowski was hired.  Once Wojo was on board, he met up with Cohen and got him on the same page.

Cohen ended up as the only one of Williams' signing class to stick with Wojciechowski and, from a certain point of view, he was rewarded for his dedication.  Cohen found himself in the starting lineup for Marquette's first game under the direction of Wojciechowski.  He was fine bordering on good, particularly for a freshman, scoring eight points, grabbing three rebounds, and dishing two assists in 24 minutes.  Cohen would get the starting nod in the next two games, both losses where the frosh played over 20 minutes.

Those losses led to a re-imagining of what this season would be for Wojciechowski, and that meant less Sandy Cohen in the lineup.  Cohen was relegated to the bench, and a minor role at that.  He only played double digit minutes three times in the next nine games, and only surpassed 12 minutes once: against Alabama A&M where he played 21.  The surprising part about all of this is that the last four games of that run was after Deonte Burton had left, meaning there were more minutes available.

Cohen was nailed to the bench for Marquette's Big East opener, a 61-58 loss to DePaul.  From there, though, things improved.  For the rest of the regular season, Cohen never played less than 11 minutes, well, at least not until the very last game of the season, against those same Blue Demons.  Cohen even found himself back in the starting lineup for four more contests - all losses - but part of that also had to do with injuries to both Juan Anderson and Matt Carlino that left MU with just six 100% healthy scholarship athletes.

Ultimately, Cohen finished the year with a fairly unimpressive stat line: 4 points, 2 rebounds, and a little less than an assist in 15 minutes per game.  That's just raw numbers, though.  Cohen finished with a slightly better effective field goal percentage than Duane Wilson, although on a whole pile fewer shots.  His defensive rebounding rate was a bit better than Derrick Wilson's, and Wilson was a heck of a rebounder for his position.  He didn't get much of a chance to show it off (only 66 attempts), but Cohen was a fairly reliable three point shooter, finishing the season having made 33% of his attempts.

What I Think We'll See

Cohen found himself back in the starting lineup for the Golden Eagles on their four game trip through Europe, as well as finding himself partnered up with three of his four fellow starters to begin the scrimmages at Marquette Madness.  Cohen was decidedly not a feature player for Marquette in Europe, but what he showed was exactly what Marquette needs.

Between Henry Ellenson, Duane Wilson, and Luke Fischer, Marquette is not going to need star scoring players this season.  What they need is guys who are willing to fill in the cracks.  Maybe it's a lot of rebounding on one night, maybe it's making a few steals in the right spot the next, maybe it's a heads up play here and there on another day.  Cohen appeared comfortable with his role in Europe, where he averaged nine points, three rebounds, nearly four assists, and just short of two steals per game.  It's that kind of stat sheet stuffing that Marquette will need from Cohen this year.

Those stats I just rattled off are obviously elevated by both the pace of play and the level of competition, but I'm most fascinated by the assists.  Cohen finished third on the team in that category behind Duane Wilson and Traci Carter, which would be the names you'd expect to see on top.  But if Marquette is going to play an up tempo style, then there are going to be assists to go around, and it's sweet to see Cohen finding the open man at such a significant rate.

What I Want To See

I did leave one thing out of that expectation level.  Over in Europe, Cohen hit 50% of his three point attempts, and he was one of four gents to attempt more than 10 threes on the trip.  Cohen already showed a bit of affinity for hitting triples last season, particularly from the corner.  If Marquette's going to play a bit up tempo, and there's going to be more taking it to the rim, that means there's going to be a few more chances for a kickout for three from that short corner.  In addition to that stat stuffing, it would be really slick if Cohen could turn himself into the team's resident assassin from long range.

There's one other aspect of Cohen's game that can't go without mention here.  You'll notice up at the top of the page here that Cohen is listed by Marquette as weighing 200 pounds.  If we consult the roster from last year, you'll find that a year ago, he was only at 180 lbs.  Same height, 20 extra pounds of muscle on that 6'6" frame.  He was already a pretty decent rebounder during his limited minutes last season, and it would be a boon to both his development and Marquette's future prospects if Cohen can figure out how to use that new size and strength to grab a few extra boards this season.  Being a little stronger while playing some defense isn't a bad thing, either.

What I Don't Want To See

As mentioned, Cohen kind of fell out of favor with Wojciechowski in the non-conference portion of last season.  He ultimately ended up turning into a rotation guy for Marquette as Big East play continued, but in the final three games of the season, it was back to the deep bench for Cohen.

In the regular season finale, Cohen played just six minutes against DePaul.  In the first round of the Big East tournament, he played just the final 90 seconds.  This is important to point out, because Marquette never led by fewer than 20 for the final 13 minutes, and never fewer than 13 in the second half.  It's also important to point out that this was in a game where Marquette was destroying their opponent AND knew if they won, they'd have to turn around and play Big East regular season champion Villanova just 15 hours after the conclusion of the game.  MU got their doors blown off in that game, and Cohen only played 10 minutes, essentially contributing nothing.

That's a bunch of weird choices for a guy who was regularly playing 15-20 minutes a game through league play.  I can't speak to what was running through Steve Wojciechowski's head at the time, but something in him said "Hey, we're up big and we have a game in 12 hours, better leave Sandy on the bench and make everyone else finish this game."

The point is that when the season became win or go home, Wojo lost interest in putting Cohen on the floor.  There's absolutely nothing to indicate that's still his mindset, but it is something that we can't deny happened.  With eight months since that transpired, the conclusion to draw would be that Cohen has a full understanding of what Wojciechowski needs from him, but it's hard to shake the nagging feeling from that March benching.