You all know the drill, by now. These are all stats-based conclusions and speculations, and to see the actual, physical numbers yourself meander over to North Dakota State's KenPom page.
I'm still scared, in case you were interested. Still very, very scared. North Dakota State is far too talented and skilled and efficient to be a 14-seed. It just doesn't make sense. But, alas, that's the situation, and we have to deal with it. And it isn't like the Bison are a better team than us. Not to get cocky or arrogant or whatever, but they can't quite match up with us. While they aren't your prototypical low-major that is short on height, they still don't have the athleticism. The size. The ridiculous talent that lets you hit 30-footers on national TV and making it look easy.
If we were to play the Bison 10 times, I'd say we win 8 of them. But 20% is nothing to sneeze at. And that number goes up and up the longer the Bison hang with us, the longer they 'believe'.
So, let's just jump out to a big lead and coast to victory. Sound good?
Rest of the preview, and it's a good one, after the break...
By now, I'm sure you've heard all of the stories. North Dakota State was a D-II program not all that long ago, and this is their very first year of being eligible for the NCAA Tournament. Sure enough, here they are, Dancin'.
They got here, primarily, by beating up lesser teams. Their best non-conference W was over Utah Valley, ranked 161st by KP, and while the Summit League is likely stronger than you give them credit for (17th best conference according to KP), it isn't a world-beater conference. Certainly not.
However, they did play very well in their two games against BCS level competition. They only lost by 14 to Minnesota and by only 4 to USC, both on the road, obviously. And in years' past, they've upset Wisconsin and Marquette on the road. They won't back down, won't shy away from the big, bad defending National Champs. They know they are good enough, talented enough, experienced enough to make some noise. Confidence won't be a factor.
The strength of the Bison, by far. They can score with the best of them, and if they win, it will be because they outscore us.
- eFG% (17th) -- In particular, the Bison are good at knocking down shots. Anywhere, by just about any player, and it has a really good chance at going in. Our under 50% field goal D streak is at serious risk. If they get hot, watch out.
- Turnover% (14th) -- They never, ever turn the ball over either, of course. A very experienced, veteran-laden team, and they take very good care of the ball. Combined with our general inability to force turnovers, and yikes. I'm sure the number will be above their average on Friday, due to nerves and such, but they should still comfortably win the turnover margin. Combining extra possessions with pinpoint accuracy is awfully dangerous. Which is why...
- Off. Reb% (171st) -- ...it is absolutely crucial to limit their second-chance points. They do have some size, and could get some, but we must limit them as much as we can. It's an absolute must. As outlined above, they are used to picking up extra possessions because they never turn it over, and make a bazillion shots. If they get multiple tries on every possession, I smell an upset. Cole should be able to take his guy, fine, and he hasn't really struggled all year with this. No, I'm mostly focused on the other guys. You know who they are. If they can box out and go out and grab the ball and use their superior athleticism, then that would be fantastic.
- FTA/FGA (141st) -- We'll get more into this on the players-by-players section, but this is on a player-by-player basis. Ben Woodside gets to the line with the best of them, and Brett Winkelman is all right at getting fouled. No one else, though, has much of a driving game and they are mostly just spot-up shooters. So, just stay in front of Woodside and you should be fine.
- 3-Point FG% (10th) -- Long. Range. Bombers. A whole team of 'em. Well, not everyone. Their 6'10" center has attempted only 5 all year. They don't take it a whole lot (only 30% of FGA, 240th in the country), but when it goes up it is usually dropping. We have to pop out and not let them beat us on the perimeter. Anybody not named Woodside is less dangerous off the dribble than spotting up, and we need to know that.
- Free Throw % (27th) -- Also, they are very good at the free throws. Although, that number is a bit misleading. There is Ben Woodside, who is money from the line, and Brett Winkelman, who is nearly as good (84% and 81% respectively), but no one else is over 70%.
This defense thing, the Bison aren't so hot at. They aren't matadors, or anything, letting you waltz on by. But we shouldn't have too much trouble scoring points on them. Of course, Baylor was a terrible defensive team and they destroyed us, as was Texas Tech, so I have no idea what to think, anymore.
- eFG% (195th) -- Open shots, here we come. We'll get them, we just need to knock them down. I'll stick by my theory: if we hit the open threes, we'll win the game. If not, the game will be far too close, and we could very likely lose. Tyrel Reed, you hold the keys to the Round of 32 in your hands. Don't fail.
- Turnover% (279th) -- They don't turn you over, which can be both good and bad. Good, in the obvious sense that they shouldn't turn us over all that much. Yay! Bad, in the sense that we have the propensity to turn it over no matter what, and their defense will be exponentially better if they force some. Boo! So, please, just hold on to the ball. Because if we can't do it against the Bison, we'll have a whale of a time against anybody after that, if we're lucky enough to win. Yowza.
- Off. Reb% (14th) -- This is key. They are excellent at limiting second-chance points. I think we're quite good at getting those same second-chance points. If the Morris twins can show up in a big way and pick up a combined 20 and 13, with plenty of offensive boards, I doubt we lose. If not, we'll have to do plenty of other things right.
- FTA/FGA (31st) -- They are also good at not fouling you. Good luck with not fouling Sherron, but this is important. They are not deep at all, and we'll get into that for a second. So if we can cause some foul trouble, that'd be sick. Keep on driving, keep on pounding, and let's get some fouls to go against the Bison.
- 3-Point FG% (239th) -- As good as they are at making the threes, they are nearly as bad at giving them up. Again, this comes back to Tyrel Reed. If Relly Ice is smokin' from the perimeter, we're going to win. I promise you. But if he isn't, there isn't much of an excuse. And, assuming they just pack in their D and that's why it's easy to knock down threes, our offense will greatly suffer. So, please, whatever it takes, get the threes to fall. Whoever, really. Just someone.
Ben Woodside (G) -- Dude is their best player, easily. He scored 60 against Stephen Fuller Austin, for goodness sakes! Seriously, though, whoever guards him is going to have to slide their feet. He drives, drives, drives, then gets fouled a bunch, then makes nearly 85% of his free throws. I bet Sherron is assigned Woodside, for both height purposes (we don't want Tyshawn guarding a 6'7" 3) and because Sehrron is the quickest. Woodside can hit the threes, too, but I'd much rather have him fire up the long balls than drive to the bucket. Keep him out of the lane, and I'll be OK.
Mike Nelson (G) -- Nelson is the Bison's defensive stopper, and should draw Sherron. In any case, his offensive responsibilities are primarily as a three-point shooter. About half of his attempts are behind the arc, where he shoots 40%. This is who Tyshawn should draw on D. He is one of the guys who you should force to put the ball on the floor. Tyshawn is a much better athlete, and as long as he can stay low and not allow open looks, we should be fine as far as Nelson goes.
Brett Winkelman (G/F) -- Almost assuredly Brady's assignment, as he stands 6'6". He is a lot like Woodside, just not quite as explosive and not quite as good of a shooter. But he is a much better rebounder. Brady needs to be the Brady that destroyed A.J. Abrams, not the Brady that got destroyed by Voskuil here. Follow Winkelman around wherever he goes, and he's dangerous both outside and inside. This will be the key matchup, IMO. Woody, as they all call him, will score some points no matter what we do, but we could theoretically shut down Winkelman. If we can, that is a HUGE plus for us.
Michael Tveidt (F) -- One of the most efficient scorers in the entire freakin' country, here is another key matchup. He's wildly accurate from the outside (45% in 83 tries), but is also money inside, as well. Marcus, Markieff and Mario will all need to continually body him up and force him to work. It's just an assumption, but KP lists him as 6'7" 210, so I'd imagine he's on the lighter side. We don't have any huge thumpers, but we are more physical than that. Make it a physical game with him, bump him, take it to him on the other side of the court. Don't pick up stupid fouls, particularly the Morris twins, but don't be afraid to be physical.
Lucas Moormann (C) -- A 6'10" center that can match up with Cole. At least physically, he can. Statistically, and from what little I've seen, he couldn't hold Cole's jock. Dude is a decent-at-best rebounder, and that's really only because he's so tall. If they match him up with Cole, Cole should have a field day. Field day, people.
Bench -- They can play more, but mostly they just rely on two bench players. Josh Vaughan is another three-point specialist, while DeJuan Flowers is probably the best rebounder on the team. DeJuan provides little value on offense, however.
These are the things we've already harped on, and should be quite obvious, but just in case you didn't pick them up.
1) Make Threes -- This is the absolute key. Defense is the problem, yes Jesse Newell, but if we can hit open threes we should be able to outscore them no matter what. They give you open threes. It's just how their defense plays. Sherron, Tyshawn, Brady, Tyrel, hell, even the Morris twins: if you get an open look in the flow of the offense, feel free. Don't force things up, ever, but if you're open fire it up. If you get hot, loosen up. If we can be consistent from out there, particularly if they are crucial in either sparking leads for us or ruining leads for them, we'll win. I promise.
2) Keep Woodside Out Of the Lane -- Again, this is an obvious one. Woodside's game is driving and getting to the foul line. Sure, he can knock down the threes, but I'll live with that. As long as a hand is in his face, fine. Just don't let him drive. That exposes our D, always ends up in them getting an open look and/or a foul on a big. Please don't let it happen, please. Sherron, I'm assuming, will have to keep him out of the lane. Please, Sherron. Show off the Anatomy of your Winner, and lead us to victory on D. It's where we need ya, man.
3) Pound the Offensive Glass -- Morris twins, I'm looking at you. If you can show up, and out-athlete the Bison frontline, we will win this game. I promise. So, please, shove away the nerves and show up. Pick up the offensive boards. Pop in the second-chance layups. Out-physical Tveidt and Flowers and Winkelman and pick up those 50/50 rebounds. We need 'em.
Here we go. I'm nervous beyond belief. I know that we should win, I know that we really should, and I have a feeling that we will. But, I'm still nervous. Just too much scary history to look back on.
But, this is where those five absolutely awful halves of basketball to close out the year come in to play (with the exception of the second half against Texas). This team is entirely and completely 'woken up', and is ready to make one more final run. We aren't cocky, we aren't confident. Hell, plenty of experts are picking us to lose to North Dakota State. Not too many, but at least some. Right now, no one is talking about Kansas. No one, I tell you. We'll be lucky to make it out of Minneapolis, and have absolutely zero shot at getting to Detroit.
So, we're just playing with house money. Let's just have some fun.
(But seriously, we need to win. Just win against the Bison, and we're all good. I promise. Super-duper promise.)