NCAA Tournament Round 1 Preview: #7 Northwestern vs #10 Arkansas
WNUR’s Greg Mroz (@wizard_of_mroz) checks in from Waco with his keys to Northwestern’s first-round women’s basketball NCAA tournament game against Arkansas. The game starts TODAY at 11AM central time, with television coverage on ESPN2 and radio coverage on WNUR 89.3 FM and right here on wnursports.com.
Waco, TX – As Northwestern gets set to play their first NCAA tournament game since 1997, here are 3 key things to keep an eye on as the Wildcats square off with Arkansas and 1st year head coach Jimmy Dykes tomorrow at the Ferrell Center.
Arkansas under Coach Dykes has prided themselves on improving their ability to rebound consistently, and while Northwestern has the statistical advantage in most categories, rebounding is one where Arkansas has a relative advantage. The Razorbacks average 40.3 boards per game while the Wildcats average 37.4 rebounds per contest. That may not seem that significant, but the Razorbacks had a +4.7 rebounding margin while the Wildcats’ margin was at -3.4. Individually, Arkansas has three players who average over six rebounds per game, while Nia Coffey is the only Wildcat that averages over six rebounds per game. Winning the rebounding margin is Arkansas’ best chance to come away with victory.
2. Razorbacks’ Lack Of Depth
The fact that Arkansas made the NCAA tournament with 17 wins, tied for the least amount of wins by a power conference team in the field, is remarkable. The fact that Arkansas made the tournament with a 6-10 conference record is even more remarkable. What’s most remarkable of all though might be that Arkansas has done it with essentially five players. All five starters average at least 28 minutes per game, and four of the five average at least 32 minutes a game. Outside of these five, no other player averages more than 13.5 minutes per game and only two players average more than ten. Depth is a big issue with the Razorbacks, not just because of fatigue, but foul trouble may force their best players out of the game. Northwestern needs to run and gun early in order to wear down Arkansas.
3. Dictating The Tempo On Defense
Northwestern is a great defensive basketball team, allowing only 62.9 points per game, which ranked 4th in the Big Ten. Arkansas only averages 60.3 points per game, and outside of Jessica Johnson and Kelsey Brooks, they are not a dynamic offense. If Joe McKeown’s signature blizzard zone throws Arkansas out of rhythm early, it could be a long day for the Razorbacks. Simply put, if Northwestern plays defense up to the standard that they are used to, there will be no problems.