After doing the scouting report for Northern Iowa, I've gotten more and more nervous about tonight's game. They do so many things that make it hard for the opponent to score. They don't take many risks on defense, they box out, they don't turn the ball over, they don't foul, and they limit the possessions. If there's a formula for staying competitive and giving yourself a chance at the end, those are all a large part of it. Offensively they have multiple guys that can shoot the 3 and have the ability to be deadly from the three point line. They've went 13-27, 10-22, and 10-20 for threes in different games this year. Anything like that and it will be an all out battle.
In an effort to calm my early morning nerves today, I started looking at some numbers to see how Kansas reacts to playing at the pace we're likely to see this afternoon. As I mentioned in the scouting report, Northern Iowa is 342 out 347 Division 1 teams in pace. They just do not speed up, ever. Siena pushed them to 67 possessions early in the year and since then they've had seven games between 61-64 possessions and eighteen games below 61 possessions. Compare that to Kansas, they've only had 5 games with 65 possessions or less this year. This game is sure to be their sixth, so how have they done in the slower games?
Offensively they seem to do really well in the slower games. In their six Big 12 games that had less than 65 possessions, they averaged 1.2 points per possession. Texas A&M was the lowest game where they averaged .97 PPP. Makes me feel better about this afternoon's contest, how about the defense?
This isn't the same good news that I saw in the offensive graph. It appears that KU's defense actually gets better with more possessions. In the same six Big 12 games below 65 possessions, Kansas allowed 1.02 points per possession. That's above their season average but I'd still take an efficiency margin of .18 tonight.
And I'm feeling even better looking at this. In approximately half of their games this year, they've averaged less than 1.1 points per possession (1.07 on the year). The 9 games between 55-65 possessions and less than a point per possession really looks good from my perspective. Those numbers should be too surprising because they are a defense first team, I just don't think they can score with Kansas.
This graph really highlights Northern Iowa's strength this year. They are stingy on defense, eight different times they were able to hold their opponent below .8 points per possession. Kansas was only able to do it three times this year, against Alcorn State, Belmont, and Temple. Of course, Kansas also played a much tougher schedule than Northern Iowa. UNLV averaged 1.16 points per possession on Thursday and that's about what I expect out of Kansas today.