Bracket Prep: Northern Iowa, Old Dominion, Siena, St. Mary’s

Posted by rtmsf on March 12th, 2010

As we move through the next few days when automatic bids will be handed out on a regular basis, we’re going to break down the teams for you so that you can start thinking about your bracket ahead of time.  The pearls of wisdom are meant to help you better understand what these teams are good at and how to make fair comparisons between them — all too often, the capsules you see have a lot of information in them, but very little of it is actually helpful.  If you have additional ideas, leave them in the comments.  For the good/bad matchups, we’re not necessarily saying that Team X will win; we’re simply pointing out that in an ideal situation, some of that team’s strengths will be more likely to manifest against those particular opponents — so save the emails.  We’re still catching up, but these should be the teams through the early part of the week.

#5. Northern Iowa Panthers (28-4, 15-3 MVC) – automatic qualifier

NCAA Seed Range: #7-#9

Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom:

  1. It’s all about methodical offense and sticky defense for the Panthers.  This team will not beat themselves with mistakes, so you’d better be disciplined in your approach if you hope to beat them.  Sixty points is the magic number — the Panthers were 16-0 this year when reaching that score.  Possession basketball is the key; a 10-point deficit in the last five minutes against UNI is nearly impossible to recover from, as they take care of the ball (only 10.5 turnovers/game) and hit free throws (75.5%).
  2. Not many mid-majors have a legitimate seven-footer but UNI’s Jordan Eglseder is one such player.  He only plays about 22 minutes per game, but he’s an effective scorer in the low post, draws a lot of fouls and is one of the best per-minute rebounders in the nation on both ends.  He’s not a game-changer in the sense that he will own the paint, but he is a tough wrinkle to prepare for in the game plan.
  3. The Panthers beat up on some bad major conference teams this year (Iowa, Iowa State, BC) in addition to knocking off some mid-major powers in Old Dominion and Siena.  The one confounding loss was to DePaul in the Virgin Islands early in the year where Mac Koshwal (12/19) dominated Eglseder (2/6) inside.  Don’t assume that as a trend, though, as Eglseder played well against ISU’s Craig Brackins (20/14) and Purdue’s JaJuan Johnson last season (13/5).

Good Matchups:  Wake Forest, Clemson

Bad Matchups: Marquette, UNLV

#6. Old Dominion (26-8, 15-3 CAA) – automatic qualifier

NCAA Seed Range: #9-#11

Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom:

  1. There’s no one player you have to stop to beat ODU, but if you can slow down 6’10 center Gerald Lee, you’ll have a better chance.  The versatile big man was seen in the CAA Tournament taking the ball upcourt against pressure on occasion, in addition to lending his usual 15/5 and 54% shooting from the field.  He has six teammates who contribute between six and nine points per game, so keying on any one of them is precarious because the Monarchs share the wealth.  They only had six occasions where a player scored 20+ points in a game this year, and five of those were Lee (Marsharee Neely was the other).
  2. ODU is another one of those mid-majors that thrives on possession basketball.  They limit your possessions by defending and rebounding among the best in the nation.  They also gang-rebound on the offensive glass, giving themselves an extra chance on nearly half of their scoring opportunities.  Those extra chances help to make up for what is a fairly lousy three-point (31.5%) and two-point shooting percentage (49.4%).
  3. ODU’s signature win was at Georgetown during Snowpacalypse I in December.  They did it by forcing GU point guard Chris Wright into a difficult game (2-8 FG; 4 pts) and collecting eighteen Hoya turnovers.  It should be noted that if you can turn over the Monarchs, as Missouri, Northern Iowa and Dayton successfully did in the nonconference slate, they struggle scoring enough points to win.

Good Matchups:  Oklahoma State, Texas

Bad Matchups: Clemson, Richmond

#7. Siena (27-6, 17-1 MAAC) – automatic qualifier

NCAA Seed Range: #11-#13

Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom:

  1. This is basically the same Siena team that you remember from the last two NCAA Tournaments, with one significant exception — Kenny Hasbrouck is no longer in the lineup for the Saints.  The star guard who dropped thirty on Vanderbilt two years ago in the first round and knocked down a late regulation three in the Siena upset over Ohio State last year is now playing for pay.  No matter, though.  The remainder of the Siena core — Ryan Rossiter, Edwin Ubiles, Alex Franklin — are all still around, back for a final collective push toward the Sweet Sixteen.
  2. Much was written about the fact that Siena was unable to beat any of their marquee nonconference games this year (vs. St. John’s, Temple, Georgia Tech, Northern Iowa, and Butler), but they didn’t beat anybody the previous two years either (unless you want to count Cornell in 2008) and the Saints still made the NCAA second round both years.  Don’t fall into that trap.  This is a focused and experienced team that knows how to win in March.
  3. We know what you’re thinking — you’re remembering the late threes from Ronald Moore against the Buckeyes last year and you’re thinking this is a classic mid-major three-point gunning team.  They’re not.  Moore hit 17-74 (23%) this year, and the team’s only volume shooter is Clarence Jackson (36%).  Rather, this team pushes in transition and then pounds it inside to their talented trio of forwards who all shoot a high percentage and understand the concept of angles.  Siena is not likely to likely to beat themselves — they protect the ball and hardly ever foul (#1 nationally) — so whoever plays them will have to force the Saints out of their comfort zones.

Good Matchups:  Gonzaga, Tennessee

Bad Matchups: Georgetown, Temple

#8. St. Mary’s (26-5, 11-3 WCC) – automatic qualifier

NCAA Seed Range: #10-#12

Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom:

  1. The Gaels can score points with just about anybody, as five players average double figures this season.  An outside observer might think that if you can stop 6’11 center Omar Samhan, you will beat this team, and that is absolutely not true.  Samhan’s 21/11/3 blks are the anchor, but the St. Mary’s runs are almost always due to their strong three-point attack.  The Gaels shoot 41% from distance as a team and have four shooters looking to spot up anywhere on the court, including 6’11 outside-in forward Ben Allen.  But it’s Mickey McConnell who really can ignite things with his 52% three-point percentage and 22 multiple-trey games this year (although Matthew Dellavedova’s 41% and 18 such games isn’t bad).
  2. The problem arises with St. Mary’s when they play athletic teams that emphasize defense because the shooters have trouble getting open looks.  USC, for example, completely shut them down from outside (6-24), holding to a season-low 49 points.  Gonzaga has the athletes, but their defense wasn’t really very good this year, so SMC was finally able to break through against the Zags in the WCC championship game.  This is something to key on in your matchup analysis.
  3. A central tenet of Randy Bennett’s philosophy is to maximize SMC’s output from three while taking away the opponent’s looks from beyond the arc.  They Gaels do a great job of closing out on shooters and forcing the bounce into the middle, where of course Samhan and his 3.0 blocks per game are waiting.  A team that successfully utilizes penetration and kickouts to open shooters would probably be very successful against this alignment.

Good Matchups:  Oklahoma State, Vanderbilt

Bad Matchups:  Texas A&M, BYU

rtmsf (3998 Posts)

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