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Game 1 Preview: Northern Iowa

November 13, 2014

North Dakota begins the post Troy Huff (and Aaron Anderson, and Jamal Webb, etc) era with a tough test at Northern Iowa. The Panthers, who finished third in the Missouri Valley last season, return everybody who played at least 20 minutes per game, including Senior Seth Tuttle, who is a darkhorse conference player of the year candidate.

For all the MVC talk about Wichita State, it was actually Northern Iowa who led the league in offense last year, scoring 1.16 points per possession in conference play. A big part of that was that UNI took threes on over 40% of their possessions in league play, and shot 40% from three to also lead the league. The Panthers also led the league in turnovers, turning it over on just 14% of their conference possessions.

All of these numbers combine to paint a bleak picture for UND. The good news, if there is any, is that if UNI takes 40% of their shots from three in the game against UND and make only 20% of them, we might have a shot. KenPom gives UNI a 95% chance to win, and has them winning by 19 points.

UND played a high tempo, pressure defense last season which led to them forcing the most turnovers in the Big Sky. They should still have some good athletes, particularly Jaron Nash, but without having seen them play yet this year I think they will be best served playing a bit more conservatively on defense this year.

From a North Dakota standpoint, this game is all about getting some guys some experience. Sophomore guard Quinton Hooker will get a chance to make this his team. He struggled offensively last year, but managed a steal rate over 3%, which is encouraging. Freshman Geno Crandall has won a lot and got some looks from higher major schools, so I am intrigued to see what he can do as well.

Bottom line is this one is probably going to be ugly. UNI looks to have a 20-30 point win in hand, but UNI could end up the second or third best team UND faces all season, so keep that in mind for the rest of the year.


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