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: 23-11 (12-6 CAA)
Adjusted offensive/defensive efficiency: 106.0 (90th)/102.4 (170th)
Seed: Midwest No. 14
Impact player: Scott Eatherton, senior, forward. 14.6 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 114.0 offensive rating
The Case For: Northeastern won the Colonial Athletic Association championship utilizing a crisp offense. It won the tournament title as a 3-seed over top-seeded William & Mary, 72-61, by shooting a blistering 59% from the field, including 12-of-20 on threes. Four players scored in double figures for the Huskies, which held the Tribe to 38.3% shooting. Coach Bill Coen’s squad reached its first NCAA tournament since 1991, when it was still a member of the then-North Atlantic Conference.
That offense could give plenty of teams trouble in March. As a program Northeastern shoots 52.9% from the field and 38.8% on three-pointers, which both rank top 30 nationally, per kenpom.com. The Huskies also make you pay for fouls by hitting 72.4% of their free throws. Coen holds the reins to a very disciplined roster, one that beat Navy and Manhattan both by double-digits in nonconference play. Now Northeastern is hitting on all cylinders after knocking off William & Mary, who had reached the Colonial title game in four of the last eight years.
The Case Against: The Huskies’ dangerous offense can also be turnover-prone. They rank 306th nationally in turnover percentage (21.4). Northeastern committed a whopping 15 turnovers in the Colonial title game, but it absorbed the miscues with a hot shooting night. The Huskies’ defense also has trouble forcing turnovers. Their opponents turn the ball over on only 15.6% of their possessions, 337th nationally, per kenpom.com. That could be a problem against more formidable offenses.
That’s why Northeastern’s inconsistency sometimes overshadows an efficient offense. Double-digit turnovers plagued the roster in losses to inferior opponents like Drexel and Delaware in the regular season. The Huskies ranked next-to-last in the Colonial in turnover margin (-3.71) with an average of 13.7 miscues per game, worst in the league. It’s clear what this roster is capable of when hitting shots, but that same offense won’t shock anybody in March without playing smart basketball.
SI prediction: Lose to Notre Dame in the Round of 64