UND went to Pocatello last night and took down Idaho State in what would normally be a fairly nondescript conference win. However, this one was big for two reasons: first, UND actually won a road game and second, it was their first ever Big Sky win.
Idaho State is the worst team in the league, so take all stats with a grain of salt, but they did allow Idaho State to score only .84 points per possession. However, that is a bit of fools gold as Idaho State shot 56% from two and only turned it over on 14% of their possessions. Their problems stemmed from taking too many threes, and making just 2 of them. Because teams who shoot a lot of threes tend to have a problem with offensive rebounds, Idaho State only rebounded 9% of their misses. That allowed UND to withstand Idaho State’s excellent shooting day inside.
Offensively, UND benefitted most from grabbing 40% of their misses. They have been a terrible offensive rebounding team (mostly because they send everyone back on defense to slow the pace down) in every year they’ve been a D1 program, so this was more of a one game anomaly helped by the fact that Idaho State ranks 325th nationally in defensive rebounding. I wouldn’t expect it to continue, so it’s imperative that they hit a few more shots, especially from three where they have been disappointing this year.
Individually UND got a big boost from Troy Huff. I’ve been critical of Huff in his time at UND because of his terrible efficiency, but he was 5-9 from two last night and has to take a lot of tough shots. If he did that every night we would see UND’s offense start to look a lot better. Speaking of looking better, Aaron Anderson was 3-6 from three last night, raising his season percentage to 37.7%. Given how he has shot it from beyond the arc so far in his college career, he needs to shoot it every time he gets an open look.
Congrats to UND for their first ever Big Sky win last night, and any road win is a good road win, but given how bad Idaho State was and how (relatively) well they were able to stop UND I still have the same questions I did heading into Big Sky play.
The United States took its first step towards redemption today after a disappointing 7th place finish in 2012 with an 8-0 demolition of Germany.
Rocco Grimaldi didn’t have a goal in the win but he did assist on Union College defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere’s power play snipe in the second period.
Backhand Shelf writer Justin Bourne wasn’t terribly impressed with Grimaldi:
First impressions of Rocco Grimaldi aren’t that flattering. But he’s had like four shifts, so I’ll shut up.
— Justin (@jtbourne) December 27, 2012
Bourne went even further later in the game:
Rocco Grimaldi is good, but he = Chris Conner, or Brett Sterling. Not Nathan Gerbe, unfortunately for Florida.
— Justin (@jtbourne) December 27, 2012
I’m certainly not going to hammer Bourne here. Offensively, Grimaldi didn’t have a great game. However, he was probably the Americans’ best forward in the one pre-tournament game he played, and he played well defensively in this one, stopping a Germany breakaway with a fantastic backcheck. Also, it seems like this is the first time Bourne watched Grimaldi, and while first impressions are important and tend to stick with people, they’re often wrong, or at least give people a stronger opinion than they should have.
Nonetheless, Grimaldi will have more chances to prove people wrong, starting tomorrow morning as the US takes on Russia.
UND point guard Jamal Webb didn’t set the world on fire as a freshman, but there was plenty there to suggest that he would be a good player going forward. His offensive rating was a tick below average, but a lot of that was due to him (understandably for a Freshman) having a high turnover rate. He also had an assist rate just under 30%, which was a top 100 rate in the entire country. Webb was also a good shooter, with an eFG of around 52%. His numbers held steady as a Sophomore, with an eFG just under 52% and though his assist rate fell, so did his turnover rate.
But this season, Webb has been a totally different player. His eFG has plummeted to an abysmal 40.8% and his assist rate has dropped to 20%. Never one to take care of the ball, he’s now turning it over at a 35% clip.
What happened? While it is too early to say, UND’s non conference slate is tougher than it has been in the past couple of years, so Webb has struggled against the better athletes he’s seen so far. Will that continue into Big Sky play? They have played just two conference games so far, and Webb was awful: he shot 2-9 (0-3 from three) and had 0 assists and 5 turnovers against Southern Utah and shot 3-8 (1-4 from three) and had 3 assists and 3 turnovers against Northern Colorado.
Keep in mind that those two teams are a combined 6-13 on the season so far, and are two of the worse teams in the Big Sky. If Webb struggles against those teams, there’s no telling how he will perform against the better schools.
If UND wants to make a run at the NCAA tournament though, he will have to. Southern Utah and Northern Colorado are two schools where UND should expect wins (even though Southern was on the road, they are terrible and should have been a win). They’ve given away two wins so far, making it even tougher for them to finish in the top 4 of the league. There’s obviously not going to be an at large bid this year for the Big Sky, so it won’t really matter, but they’re not doing themselves any favors in terms of giving them better matchups in the conference tournament.
UND gets back at it on January 3rd against Idaho State and we should all be watching Jamal Webb. If he improves, UND will be in good shape to maybe make a surprise run in the conference tournament. If he doesn’t, he might be spending his senior year watching someone else running the team.
With UND coming off back to back Great West tournament titles and with a win over Montana last season, a lot of UND fans should be optimistic for how things will go in their first Big Sky season. So it was only natural when the preseason polls were released and we found out that the coaches had UND pegged as the 4th best team in the league and the media has them picked to finish 6th.
Contrast this with the more statistically inclined predictions from Ken Pomeroy and Dan Hanner:
Here is how Pomeroy (a very worthwhile site to subscribe to by the way) had the Big Sky shaking down (overall rank in parentheses):
1. Montana (103)
2. Northern Colorado (170)
3. Weber State (187)
4. North Dakota (203)
5. Southern Utah (263)
6. Sacramento State (271)
7. Eastern Washington (278)
8. Portland State (279)
9. Montana State (311)
10. Northern Arizona (325)
11. Idaho State (328)
Going by KenPom, there is a pretty clear top four before the bottom tends to fall out a bit (really probably a top 3 but more on that in a bit).
Hanner, meanwhile, published his preseason projections at Basketball Prospectus, and they were quite the undertaking (for more, read this link):
1. Montana (140)
2. Weber State (179)
3. Northern Colorado (187)
4. North Dakota (195)
5. Southern Utah (221)
6. Montana State (256)
7. Eastern Washington (283)
8. Sacramento State (289)
9. Idaho State (299)
10. Portland State (313)
11. Northern Arizona (316)
There’s a little more bunching at the top here in Hanner’s predictions, but the end result is similar for North Dakota fans: a top 4 finish should be a fairly straight forward proposition, and there are a couple reasons to believe it could be even better: Read more…
The Sioux suffered their first loss of the season to MVC foe Bradley in a game that was even more defensive than it looked just by looking at the scoreline. The Sioux held Bradley under a point per possession but managed just .86 PPP themselves in what hopefully will be their worst offensive output of the season.
The Sioux defense probably wasn’t as good as the PPP data indicates as they allowed Bradley to shoot 57% from inside the arc and were benefited by the Braves shooting just 21% from three. They also kept Bradley off the glass well, allowing only 19.4% of the rebounds to be snagged, another great effort by this team on the glass.
Offensively the Sioux took care of the ball well, turning it over at just a 16.3% clip, but couldn’t put the ball in the whole, shooting 40% from two and just 6-25 from three. They also shot 13 fewer free throws than Bradley, a pretty poor effort inside.
Fresh off a pretty good win against Idaho State the Sioux travel to Bradley to take on the 2-0 Braves. Bradley hasn’t really played the toughest schedule so far, but will be our toughest opponent to date:
First year coach Geno Ford brings back 3 starters, though they did graduate the best player off their 2010-11 team, Andrew Warren. Last year Bradley was the 313th best offensive rebounding team in the country, but this year they have rebounded very well in their first two games, grabbing 38.4% of their own misses, though it remains to be seen whether they are just crashing the boards harder or whether it is some talent differential.
Because of Bradley’s height they are shooting a robust 56.9% from two and haven’t had a single shot of theirs blocked so far.
Fortunately for the Sioux that advantage doesn’t really translate to the defensive end as Bradley allows opponents to shoot 52.8% from inside the arc, and they are just 182nd in defensive rebounding. If the Sioux try to crash the boards a bit in this one they can perhaps capitalize on that and get some second chance points.
Bradley also doesn’t do too well forcing turnovers, forcing opponents to turn it over on just 17.6% of their possessions, which is 275th nationally. They turn it over on 20.8% of their possessions (140th) themselves, but the Sioux defense has been quite ballhawking, as they force opponents to cough it up on 32.6% of their possessions, which is 7th best in the entire country.
Despite some apparent Sioux advantages, their first road game of the year is probably going to be their first loss of the year. KenPom predicts a 71-62 loss and gives UND a 20% chance to win. Still, if they can shoot the three well and grab some offensive rebounds they have a very real chance to go 3-0.
Granted Idaho State wasn’t a very good team last year, and I doubt they will be a good team this year (picked last in the Big Sky) but I am still rather surprised the Sioux won the game last night. I was perhaps a bit blinded by their narrow loss to Oklahoma, but that’s a really good win for the Sioux. With the bulk of the team being made up of Sophomores, I’m not saying the Sioux can challenge for the Big Sky autobid in two years but they can perhaps put in a nice mid conference finish and build the program from there.
Anyways, as for last night’s game: The positives are many, as the Sioux managed a 52.2% eFG, including shooting 50% from two. They also shot 36% from three, and took more threes than they did twos. I love shooting the three, especially in mid to low major basketball, so that is an excellent job by the Sioux to maximize the number of points they can come away with. Defensively the Sioux were excellent as well, allowing Idaho State to shoot only 37.5% from two. That is especially good when considering they have a 7 footer.
Speaking of which, that makes the Sioux rebounding effort even more impressive. They snagged 32.3% of the offensive rebounds available and allowed Idaho State to grab only 33.3% of theirs. Those numbers probably won’t fly on a season long basis, but against a team that outsized them as much as Idaho State does it is an impressive effort indeed.
Another impressive effort was the number of turnovers the Sioux forced. Idaho State turned it over on nearly a third of their possessions, which is nearly 15% higher than the number of turnovers the Sioux forced last year. If they can consistently do that I think they’ll cruise in GWC play.