This week the Northwestern University men’s basketball team opens their season against Eastern Illinois. The SB Nation blog, Inside NU, previewed Chase Audige ’17 as the Wildcats begin their 2021-22 campaign.
2021-2022 Player Reviews: Chase Audige
Who He Is
Redshirt junior; 6-foot-4; 200 lbs; Coram, NY; transfer from William & Mary
28.2 minutes per game, 12.3 points per game, 3.7 rebounds per game, 1.8 assists per game, 1.5 steals per game, 0.4 blocks per game, 40.4 FG%, 54.4 FT%, and 33.9 3P%.
After sitting out the 2019-20 season due to NCAA protocols, the William & Mary transfer made his debut with Northwestern amidst the COVID-19 pandemic last year. Before the season, it was difficult to predict how Audige would adjust to Big Ten play coming from the CAA. However, Audige had a promising start to his Northwestern career, beginning the season as a starter and averaging over 15 points per game over his first four contests. He had what many thought to be his breakout game against Indiana in NU’s second conference game of the year when he took over at the end of the second half and scored Northwestern’s last 11 points.
During the ensuing 13-game losing streak, though, things went south for Audige. Following the Indiana game, Audige was often given the ball when the shot clock was winding down or if the ‘Cats needed a bucket, and he was unable to answer the call more often than not. His 48.5% true shooting percentage was the lowest on the team.
Audige did manage to finish the year as the team’s leading scorer with 12.3 PPG, which points to his ability to score in bunches. But his numbers are also slightly inflated by high volume, as he attempted 50 more field goals than anyone else on the team. He did have some impressive stretches of play on both ends of the floor over the course of the season, but, ultimately, was never consistent enough to establish himself as a go-to scorer.
With two years of eligibility remaining, Audige has the potential to become a serious offensive threat, despite low scoring efficiency numbers from his 2020-21 campaign. What stands out most about his offensive game is his ability to create his own shot, a skill that most of his teammates largely lacked. Whether it’s driving to the hoop or creating space for a jump shot, Audige’s explosiveness combined with a pure–if inconsistent–jump shot made him a threat to score in bunches at any given time, and the numbers show it.
The New York native scored 16 points or more eight times during the season, highlighted by a 25-point output against Ohio State in January and a 22-point outburst against the Illini a month later. With better shot selection and a more steady jump shot, he can become the spark plug on offense that Northwestern so desperately needs.
Audige was largely a positive on the defensive side of the ball as well. For the most part, he had quick feet, quick hands and reacted well on defense. His 37 steals were good for third-most in the Big Ten, and he was tied for second-most blocks on the team with ten.
As noted above, Audige’s major weakness is his shot selection. The junior had a propensity for taking–and often missing–unnecessary and difficult shots, leading to poor offensive efficiency. Despite some high scoring outputs throughout the year, Audige shot over 50% from the field in just two of the 24 games in which he played. He tried playing hero ball more often than he was capable of, settling for difficult, Kobe-like pull-up jumpers when he might have been better suited taking it to the cup or passing the ball to a teammate.
Audige’s free throw shooting is another part of his game that he needs to improve if he wants to be a more dynamic threat this season. He shot right under 55 percent from the charity stripe last year, a figure that was nearly 20 percentage points lower than any of his fellow starters. In order to make more of an impact, he’ll have to get that number much higher in the coming season.
The transfer had an interesting first year in Evanston, but there’s no doubt that Audige is one of the most talented players on the roster. He showcased his abilities time and time again last year, from high flying dunks to active hands on defense. With a year of Big Ten experience under his belt and a more normal offseason to practice with the team, fans should be hopeful that they will see a new and improved Chase Audige on display this season. However, the big question that remains is whether or not he can improve on his weaknesses and be more consistent for a full forty minutes.
It will also be interesting to see how his playing time is affected by the departure of Miller Kopp and the arrivals of highly-touted guards Casey Simmons and Julian Roper. It’s likely that Audige begins the season playing big minutes as a starter, but if his play falters and the freshmen show up, it is possible that his role could be diminished.