Marquette University's Cadougan reacts after making his shot during NCAA game in Louisville

Marquette will need Cadougan, Mayo as the games get bigger

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To say that guards Junior Cadougan and Todd Mayo struggled in Marquette’s one game at the Big East Championship last week would be an understatement.

Neither played well in the Golden Eagles’ quarterfinal loss to Louisville, and it was imperative that those two raise their level of play if Marquette were to reach their goals in the NCAA tournament.

If the play of Cadougan and Mayo in Marquette’s 62-53 win over 6-seed Murray State is any indication, both are ready to be key contributors as the Golden Eagles look to return to the site of their most recent Final Four appearance (2003).

Cadougan scored eight points and dished out four assists with just one turnover and Mayo scored eight and grabbed six rebounds off the bench, with both getting their shot at guarding All-America point guard Isaiah Canaan.

They were two big reasons (along with Vander Blue) why Canaan made 4 of 17 shots from the field, scoring 16 points while Donte Poole scored seven on 3 of 13 shooting. And their play did not go unappreciated by their higher-profile teammates.

“I think everybody was able to see Junior Cadougan as the point guard of our team nationally,” said Darius Johnson-Odom of Cadougan. “He’s always been an elite player, but I think everybody who watches basketball was able to see it today.”

It would have been easy for them to get discouraged in the aftermath of the 84-71 loss to Louisville that featured a stunning 26 turnovers, but they didn’t.

Both continued to work, and at the current level they’re playing at Cadougan and Mayo are more than capable of helping Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder lead the Golden Eagles to the Final Four.

“And what about D.J.’s answer about Junior, after all you guys are going we need a point guard,” asked head coach Buzz Williams.  “You think those kids don’t pay attention?  You think those kids don’t want to fight?

“That a senior who’s a pro is talking about a junior who everybody jumped off the boat when we left New York.  Everybody jumped off the boat when Todd couldn’t make a shot.”

Cadougan finished the weekend in Louisville with nine assists to just four turnovers, posting an assist-to-turnover ratio (2.25) better than his ratio over the prior six games (1.5).

Mayo was also better in Louisville, averaging nine points and six rebounds after accounting for 4.5 points and 1.5 rebounds per game during that same six-game stretch.

Clearly Crowder and Johnson-Odom will lead the way if Marquette is to reach the Final Four, but based on what happened on Saturday and the reactions following it’s safe to say that they all understand that Cadougan and Mayo will be important as the games get bigger.

And in front of a pro-Murray State crowd, the two guys outsiders pegged to crack first showed no signs of doing so.

Raphielle Johnson is the assistant editor at and can be followed at @raphiellej.

No. 1 Kentucky survives without Tyler Ulis in lineup

Tyler Ulis
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
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Less than a week after giving No. 2 Maryland all they could handle, Illinois State went into Lexington and gave No. 1 Kentucky fits.

The Redbirds never really threatened UK in the second half, but they went into the break tied and were within single digits down the stretch, eventually losing 75-63.

Kentucky was flustered. They turned the ball over 15 times compared to just eight assists, they shot 2-for-12 from three and just 29-for-46 (63 percent) from the charity stripe. They simply did not handle Illinois State’s pressure all that well.

And there was a reason for that.

Tyler Ulis didn’t play.

Sometimes it’s difficult to appreciate just what a player brings to a team until that player is not in the lineup, and that was precisely the case with Ulis on Monday night. It was crystal clear what he provides Kentucky. Beyond leadership and the ability to break a press without throwing the ball to the other team, he’s a calming presence. He doesn’t get rattled when a defender is harassing him and he doesn’t get overwhelmed by a situation like a mid-major threatening the No. 1 team in the country in their own gym.

He’s everything you look for in a pure point guard, and for as good as Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe have looked at times this season, it should be crystal clear who the most important player on this Kentucky team is.

LSU loses to Charleston, eliminates at-large bid margin for error

Ben Simmons
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
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Ben Simmons scored 15 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, the second time in his six-game career that the LSU freshman has collected that many caroms, but that wasn’t enough for the Tigers to avoid dropping a game on the road to the College of Charleston, 70-58. It was the third straight loss for Simmons’ crew, as they fell to Marquette and N.C. State at the Legends Classic last week.

But here’s the thing: LSU didn’t just lose.

The game really wasn’t close.

LSU was down by as many as 23 points. It was 39-17 at the half, and that was after Charleston had a shot at the buzzer called off upon review. They made a bit of a run in the second half but never got closer than seven. When LSU would cut into the lead, the Cougars would respond with a run of their own, killing LSU’s spirit while keeping them at arm’s length.

[RELATED: Ben Simmons’ one college year a waste?]

Now, there are quite a few things here to discuss. For starters, LSU’s effort was, at best, apathetic, and, at worst, regular old pathetic. The team has a serious lack of leadership that was plainly evident on Monday night; would Fred VanVleet let his team fold against a program picked to finish at the bottom of the SoCon? Would Tyler Ulis? For that matter, would Tom Izzo or Mike Krzyzewski or John Calipari?

Perhaps more importantly, does any of that change when Keith Hornsby and Craig Victor get back?

Simmons did show off his potential — 18 boards, four assists, he even made his first three of the year — but he also showed precisely why there are scouts that are trying to curtail the LeBron James comparisons. Simmons was 4-for-15 from the floor with seven turnovers against a mediocre mid-major team. There are so many things that Simmons does well, but scoring efficiently — particularly in half court setting — and shooting the ball consistently are not on that list.

But here’s the biggest issue: LSU may have put themselves in a situation where they aren’t a tournament team. As of today, they’re 3-3 on the season with losses to a pair of teams that, at best, seem destined to be in the bubble conversation on Selection Sunday in addition to this loss to Charleston. The rest of their non-conference schedule is ugly. The only game worth noting is at home against No. 6 Oklahoma at the end of January.

The NCAA factors in non-conference schedule strength when determining at-large teams. You need to at least try, and LSU didn’t try; they have one of the worst non-conference schedules in the country.

The great thing about being in the SEC — as opposed to, say, the Missouri Valley — is that the Tigers will have plenty of chances to earn marquee wins. Six, by my court: Kentucky twice, Texas A&M twice, Vanderbilt on the road and Oklahoma at home. They probably need to win at least two or three of those games to have a real chance, and that’s assuming they can avoid anymore horrid losses in the process.

The season isn’t over six games in, not by any stretch of the imagination.

But LSU has done a hell of a job eliminating their margin for error.