With the 2015-2016 season now in the books, we take a moment to look back at the performance that each member of YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles this year. While we're at it, we'll also take a look back at our player previews and see how our preseason prognostications stack up with how things actually played out. We'll run through roster in order of total minutes played (lowest to highest). We move onwards to Marquette's first notable contributor this season.....
#5 - Sophomore - 6'5" - 205 lb.
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.
I think, and this might end up being slightly confusing, that we have to start discussion Sandy Cohen's season by figuring out which Sandy Cohen that we want to talk about.
There's non-conference Sandy Cohen, and then there's Big East Sandy Cohen.
Non-Con Cohen started 10 of 13 games, played 28 minutes a game, scoring nine points, shooting 42% from long range, and grabbing four rebounds. That's pretty good, right?
Big East Cohen started started the first six games of league play, and then didn't start again for the rest of the season. He played 20 minutes a game, which includes a zero for his one game suspension for conduct unbecoming a Golden Eagle or whatever the hell the real reason actually was. Cohen averaged five points, three rebounds, and shot just 25% on long range shots. That is pretty much the opposite of pretty good. I mean, I guess the rebounding number is halfway decent since it didn't go down all that much, and he actually ended up top 25 in the Big East in Defensive Rebounding Rate.
If you read the What We Said section, you'll notice that this happened last year to Cohen, too. Last year, maybe it was just a case of a freshman hitting a wall. This year, head coach Steve Wojciechowski said over and over as the season progressed that the situation with Cohen was that he had lost his confidence. Other than the one game suspension for otherwise unexplained reasons, we really have no reason to doubt Wojo's word on this one. He seems to really like Cohen, as evidenced by giving him a nod in the starting lineup in both men's very first game at Marquette. Cohen got the starting nod for all of the games over in Europe last summer, and when the lineup needed retooling after the blowout loss to Iowa, it was Cohen that went back into the starting lineup.
Even with Cohen's confidence shot, it's clear that Wojciechowski still believes in him and was giving him chances to shake it out of his system. 20 minutes a game is still a lot of time for a guy who isn't playing as well as he has proven that he could in the past. The downside is that it's not that much of a bump from his minutes in conference play a year ago. In 2014-15, Cohen played 43.2% of Marquette's Big East minutes, but only 49.5% this year. It would have been nice to see Cohen jump up a bit more than that going from his freshman year to his sophomore year, even with a more stacked roster to compete against for playing time. Next year, he's going to be one of the senior statesmen of this squad, and seeing Cohen take a step forward with this year's team would have been helpful in thinking good thoughts about what the team can accomplish next year.
Instead, it ended up with a lot - really, a lot - of people presuming that Cohen was going to transfer. I never understand this panicking train of thought about any player that's not a candidate for all-Big East, and it made even less sense with Cohen this time around. First of all, it's not like a player that has a rough season at a school like Marquette is going to end up going somewhere better. The North Carolinas and Arizonas of the world aren't lining up to take in a guy who struggles at a Big East school. Second of all, Cohen was FINE. Sure, he had his struggles, but every team needs a guy who averages six points, three rebounds, and an assist in 23 minutes largely off the bench. Thirdly, Wojo clearly has Cohen's back, so why would he abandon a situation where his coach believes in him and is trying to pry consistently good play out of him? Some of y'all need to stop being so excited to kick someone off the team on a regular basis.
We do, however, have one very serious question to ask: Why doesn't Wojciechowski trust Cohen against DePaul? Last year, Cohen had a DNP and a six minute appearance against the Blue Demons. With that, you can say "oh, he's a freshman, he's struggling a bit, Wojo doesn't see how he fits going against the Purnell offense and defense, it's a bad matchup for him." Well, now Cohen's a sophomore and Dave Leitao has the reigns down in Lincoln Park. Cohen's outings against DePaul this year: seven minutes at home in the first game after he was removed from the starting lineup, five minutes on the yearly trip the Rosemont Horizon. We have to admit that this is weird, right?
Best Game: Oh, this is super easy, and to be honest, it should have been even easier. Cohen's best game this season was easily the home date against San Jose State, where he had a career high 17 by the under-12 media timeout.... of the FIRST HALF. Now, he slowed waaaaaaaaaaaaay down, finishing with just a 6-10 day from long range after hitting five in the early goings, but it was still a 24 point, five rebound, three assist, three steal, one block evening for the sophomore. If you like the more fancy estimations of things, Cohen finished the game with an offensive rating of 145 and was tabbed as the KenPom MVP.
Season Grade, on a scale of 1-10: Ohhhhhh, this is not easy. On one hand, it seemed like Cohen was right on trajectory to be exactly what we hoped he could turn into for Marquette: Jack of all trades, doing whatever it was that MU needed on a given night. But things came unglued for him after the 1st of the year, and he ultimately ended up with an okay season. He still had a role to play, though, and Wojo believed in him even through his struggles. I'm going to give him a six, but dock him a point for that late season suspension and mark it down in the record book as a 5.