NCAA March Madness Preview – Northern Kentucky Norse

Northern Kentucky Norse

Horizon (24-10, 12-6)

by Joel Welser

Northern Kentucky took full advantage of an upset filled Horizon League tournament to claim their first ever trip to the NCAA Tournament. The Norse entered the tournament as the four seed with a solid 12-6 record in conference play. After dispatching fifth seeded Wright State, NKU played upset minded ninth seed Youngstown State and tenth seeded Milwaukee.

Big Wins: 12/18 Eastern Washington (70-48), 2/4 at Wright State (83-79), 2/9 Green Bay (69-67)

Bad Losses: 11/18 vs Austin Peay (69-77), 1/12 at Milwaukee (58-68), 2/18 at Youngstown State (77-81)

Coach: John Brannen

Why They Can Surprise:

Northern Kentucky can do a lot of damage from beyond the arc. The team ranks 23rd in the country in three-point field-goal attempts. Cole Murray is the most dangerous shooter on the team and his next long ball will be his 100th of the season. He connects on 40.6 percent of his attempts and any time he takes a shot inside the arc, it is probably an accident. But having a shooter like him always hanging out with his toes behind the line helps open up the rest of the offense. But Murray is not the only dangerous shooter. Lavone Holland II is a much, much more dynamic scorer, but he too is a relatively consistent outside shooter.

Drew McDonald, the team’s leading scorer at 16.4 points per game, is a very tough matchup. The 6-7 center is a very good shooter, but is not afraid to fight it out in the paint on either end of the floor. Many teams that shoot from outside as much as Northern Kentucky struggle on the glass, but that is not the case here. McDonald and freshman forward Carson Williams are strong rebounders and Jeff Garrett provides more toughness off the bench.

Why They Can Disappoint:

This is a team that can make things interesting if their shots are falling. However, they need to get in the position to get those shots. Northern Kentucky commits quite a few turnovers and the Holland II and reserve guard Mason Faulkner must make sure that they do not give away too many possessions. This is not a group that is going to force turnovers and their rebounding prowess will likely be negated by bigger opposition, so their best bet for remaining competitive is to take care of the ball, hoist up some three-pointers and hope for the best.

Probable Starters:

Lavone Holland II, Junior, Guard, 14.3 ppg, 4.1 apg

Cole Murray, Senior, Guard, 10.2 ppg, 1.1 apg

Jordan Garnett, Junior, Forward, 4.8 ppg, 3.2 rpg

Carson Williams, Freshman, Forward, 10.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg

Drew McDonald, Sophomore, Center, 16.4 ppg, 7.7 rpg

Key Role Players:

Jeff Garrett, Sophomore, Forward, 3.6 ppg, 4.3 rpg

Brennan Gillis, Sophomore, Forward, 3.1 ppg, 1.9 rpg

Mason Faulkner, Freshman, Guard, 7.5 ppg, 2.1 apg

Dantez Walton, Freshman, Guard, 4.0 ppg

By the Numbers:

Scoring Offense: 76.4 (106th in nation, 7th in conference)

Scoring Defense: 71.9 (170, 5)

Field-Goal Percentage: 45.9 (97, 1)

Field-Goal Defense: 44.2 (199, 6)

Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 8.5 (79, 2)

Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 35.0 (174, 4)

Free-Throw Percentage: 67.4 (268, 8)

Rebound Margin: 4.7 (47, 2)

Assists Per Game: 14.2 (131, 5)

Turnovers Per Game: 13.7 (242, 6)

Recent Postseason Appearances:

No Recent Tournament History

*all team stats through 3/5

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