A large burden has been hoisted upon Tucker and classmate Mac Koshwal during their second season in Chicago. Their development has followed two different paths. Koshwal has continued progress towards being an impact player, while Tucker has struggled as the team's go-to scorer.
"That's where it's been most difficult for Dar and Mac," Wainwright said. "We're expecting them to be great as sophomores and they're getting everyone's best shot and there's no question that they don't have the experience to handle that right now."
Tucker took on a large part of the DePaul offense during his freshman season, but he played considerably fewer minutes. As a freshman, Tucker played 23.6 minutes per game. This season, those minutes have increased to 31.5 per game. Even as a freshman, the talented forward used a high volume of possessions, 28.1 percent. With the loss of Draelon Burns, that number has only increased. When he's on the court, Tucker now uses 31.8 percent of DePaul's possessions, 23rd in the country.
The increased load has forced opponents to key on Tucker even more so than his freshman season. While his assist rate is actually up to 10.3 percent from 9.8 percent last season, Tucker's offensive rating has dropped to 99.0 from 107.4.
Most of the drop in offensive efficiency is due to the fact that Tucker is often forced to take bad shots as the Blue Demon offense stalls. His effective field goal percentage, a field goal percentage that takes into account the higher value of three-point shots, has dropped to 45.2 percent from 51.1 percent a year ago.
Koshwal's effective field goal percentage has risen slightly, to 54.5 from 50.0 a year ago, as he has learned to get better shots in the paint.
"I really do believe there has been a lot of unfair criticism on both Mac and Dar about their shots. … Everything they're doing is trying to help their team win," Wainwright said. "I think they feel they have to score every time because we struggle a little bit at other positions."
Some parts of Koshwal's game have improved, even as he carries a heavier burden. Koshwal is now using 25.4 percent of DePaul's possessions, up from 20.3 percent. He is also taking 21.5 percent of the Blue Demons' shots, up from 18.2 percent. Still, he has not let the increased burden hurt his overall impact, except in one facet, turnovers.
Both Koshwal and Tucker have seen their turnover rates rise considerably during their sophomore seasons, and that is hurting their offensive efficiency. Turnovers are wasted possessions. As a freshman Tucker was one of the best players in the country at not turning the ball over. He committed a turnover on just 11.4 percent of possessions, 42nd in the country. That number has risen to 14.5 percent this season.
Koshwal's turnover rate has risen even more dramatically. Teams now anticipate him getting the ball in the post and are bringing double teams and forcing turnovers. The center's turnover rate is now at 22.5 percent up from only 17.7 percent during his freshman season.
"Everybody is really bodying up and trying to cut his space," Wainwright said about his sophomore center. "I think sometimes when things don't go well you have a tendency to try even harder and play even faster. He's got to go back to changing speeds and letting the game come to him."
One good sign though is that Koshwal is passing more effectively out of double-teams. His assist rate has almost doubled from last season. Also, Koshwal has improved his rebounding, on both ends of the court.
Wainwright realizes that he has leaned heavily on the two sophomores this season, maybe too heavily. The pair has been worn down by a long, winless Big East season, against opponents with more experience.
"They are still sophomores and they have a mental fatigue. They also don't like losing. It really wears on you. In a lot of ways the mental fatigue obviously causes physical fatigue," Wainwright said. "And to tell you the truth, I have probably played them both too much. I need to find ways, of course they tell you they're fine, but it is a heck of difference between 34 and 29 minutes. I just need to find a better way of down the stretch trying to keep them fresh."
Wainwright also needs to find a way to help both players continue to improve, because their future is the future of the Blue Demons.
John Templon is the photographer and writer of the Chicago College Basketball blog. John is a graduate journalism student at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.
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