I will be honest, the team I know the least about in the Big Sky is Southern Utah. My guess is that among Big Sky fans, I am not alone. So I decided to take a look at the Thunderbirds, with the help of kenpom.com.
Through their first eight games, SUU is 316th in the country in offensive efficiencyy (89.6), and 282nd in defensive efficiency (104.7). In the Big Sky, that makes them tenth best offensively, but sixth best defensively.
On offense, their problem has been twofold. For one, they have turned the ball over far too often. Their TO Rate is 28.6, which is 342nd in the country (out of 347). PG Damon Heuir had a 23.5 TO Rate, but the frontcourt has been a big part of the problem. Starting forwards Wade Collie (35.4) and Jaren Jeffery (36.1) have sky high rates. Jackson Stevenett is one of the lone exceptions, as he has taken care of the ball despite a high usage rate.
Their other offensive problem is outside shooting, where they have hit just 25.8% from downtown. That is a tough thing to overcome, as it clogs the middle, as well as not allowing you to reap the benefits of threes. This is not a big part of their offense attempts-wise, but it would be big if someone can become a threat from out there.
Defensively, teams are shooting the lights out against them, as opponents have a 45% three-point percentage against SUU. I don't expect that will continue unless the TBirds are extremely unlucky, so that should be an outlier that will slowly adjust closer to the mean. They have struggled to force turnovers as well, as opponents have a 16.0 TO Rate, 325th in the nation. That discrepancy between how many TOs they commit versus how many they force is a big reason why they are 2-6.
Two things they do well is rebound the basketball defensively and block shots. Jayson Cheesman has been particularly solid in both areas, and has been a great signing by Nick Robinson. Cheesman has a 22.7 DR% and a 14.0 Block % (which is 13th in the country). The big guys are mostly unheralded, but they do a nice job of protecting the rim, which will further be a boost for their defense when teams stop hitting so many threes against them.
Southern Utah or Big Sky fans, anything else to add about them?
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