Our first step on the road to Indianapolis … Northeastern. So who is Northeastern?
Northeastern University is in Boston, Massachusetts, and the Northeastern Huskies play in the Colonial Athletic Association. They won the CAA title by defeating top-seeded William & Mary by a score of 72-61. The 23-11 Huskies are making their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament in 24 years. Their in-conference record was 12-6.
Let’s take a look at how the Huskies stack up to the Irish. The Huskies averaged 68.6 points-per-game to the Irish’s 78.8 points-per-game, (the Irish are ranked 12th in the nation). Slight edge to the Irish. But the rest of the stats are quite even. The Huskies’ free throw percentage was 72.5% to the Irish’s 74%, and from three-point land the Huskies average 38.8% to the Irish’s 39.2%.
Where the Notre Dame offense has an advantage is their diversity of offensive talent. The offense has four players who average 12 points-per-game ( Jerian Grant, Pat Connaughton, Demetrius Jackson, and Zach Auguste). If these four players continue their current streak, they are a key factor in Notre Dame’s success against the Huskies. The Fighting Irish also excel at ball security. They have the fourth lowest turnover percentage.
They key to Northeastern’s success against Notre Dame would be if they can continue their red-hot three-point shooting from the CAA tournament. In their game against William & Mary, Northeastern was 12-for-20 in three-point shots. The Huskies also had four players who shot in double figures in the CAA title game against William & Mary. This would be an important streak to continue as well.
Where are the Huskies’ weaknesses? The productive Huskies’ offense can also be prone to turnovers. They rank 306th in turnover percentages (21.4%) and during the CAA title game made a stunning 15 turnovers. The Huskies’ defense also has issues forcing turnovers. They are ranked 337th nationally in forcing turnovers, which could be a big problem for them against offenses who really bring on the pressure.
The numbers certainly look like they play out in Notre Dame’s favor, but these are the games that scare me the most. We come out big to play the Duke’s and North Carolina’s of the world, but seem to falter against the no-brainer wins. I’m going to refrain from making any predictions and just say GO IRISH!