As part of its preview of the 2015 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, SI.com is taking a look at all 68 teams in the field. RPI and SOS data from realtimerpi.com. Adjusted offense and defense are from kenpom.com and measure the number of points scored and allowed per 100 possessions, and the team’s national rank. All stats are through Monday, March 16.
Record: 23-9 (12-4 Summit)
Adjusted offensive/defensive efficiency: 101.0 (194th)/100.1 (123rd)
Seed: South No. 15
Impact player: Lawrence Alexander, senior, guard. 18.9 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 110.7
The Case For: You probably remember the Bison from last year, when 12th-seeded NDSU, a football school, shocked fifth-seeded Oklahoma in overtime, 80-75, in the second round of the NCAA tournament. The Bison return three starters from that group, including Alexander, who hit 10-of-15 field goals on his way to 28 points in that upset of the Sooners.
A 6’3” junior guard who strokes it from three, Alexander can get hot from outside, and it doesn’t take him a lot of shots to get going (he shoots 44% from long distance). Redshirt freshman 6’6” guard A.J. Jacobson chips in 11.9 points and 4.2 rebounds per game. NDSU knows something about surprising people, too. Picked to finish fifth in the Summit League behind first-year coach David Richman, the Bison won a share of the regular season title and the conference tournament championship. They lost two of their last four heading into the conference tournament but reeled off three wins in Sioux Falls, including a 57-56 victory over top-seeded South Dakota State.
The Case Against: The Bison’s best win this season is Akron, which isn’t saying much. They don’t force their opponents to throw it away enough (only 16.6% of possessions according to kenpom.com) or rebound their own misses consistently (only 26.5% of the time). Against good teams, NDSU got smoked this season: Texas throttled them 85-50 on Nov. 14 and three days later Iowa cruised to an 87-56 win. They got outrebounded a combined 96-64 those two games, and shot a combined 35-for-129 (18.3%).
They don’t have anyone who can score, or defend, around the basket. Texas and Iowa had their way in the paint, scoring 34 and 32, respectively. It’s easy figure out how: only one starter (Chris Kading) is taller than 6’7”. He averages just 5.4 points per game. Also, the Summit League, in which NDSU went 12-4, was a one-bid conference. There’s a reason for that.
SI prediction: Lose to Gonzaga in the Round of 64