The Big Sky semifinals are tonight, and both games have a clear favorite. It would be an upset if either Northern Colorado or North Dakota win, but certainly anything can happen in a one game format (just ask the WAC). So with that said, what do those teams need to do to pull an upset? Here are some key things to look for:
- Create second chance opportunities. Northern Colorado averaged 17 offensive rebounds per game in the two meetings between these clubs during the season, and so you know this will be a point of emphasis for the Grizzlies. When Derrick Barden and Connor Osborne are active, they are the best offensive rebounding duo in the conference, and Montana is susceptible to allowing offensive boards. The Bears have to get some cheap points off offensive rebounds.
- Tevin Svihovec has to be strong with the ball. Svihovec has been up and down this year, and hasa 22.9 TO Rate, higher than you would like for a PG. He will be matched against Will Cherry, who happens to be one of the best in the Big Sky history at getting steals. Taking care of the basketball will be paramount for the Bears.
- Avoid defensive breakdowns. At times this year, UNC has had a tendency to lose track of their guys, but you can’t do that when you are facing guys like Cherry, Kareem Jamar, and Jordan Gregory. The Bears have looked better defensively in recent weeks, but they have struggled against Montana. In their first meeting, the Grizzlies scored 1.44 points per possession, in the second meeting it was 1.06 PPP. They cannot allow any easy looks.
- Make threes. UND often beats teams with their athleticism, which is why Weber State is a tough matchup for them, because they are one of the few Big Sky teams that can athletically matchup with Troy Huff, Aaron Anderson, and Jamal Webb. To combat that, UND needs to hit threes, which won’t be easy against the Wildcats. In the first two meetings between these teams, UND was a combined 5/18 from deep. That has to change if they are going to have a chance.
- They need strong post defense without having to help too much. In the first meeting, Kyle Tresnak had a huge game, in the second, it was Frank Otis. UND sometimes likes to play four guards at a time, but you can’t do that against WSU or Otis/Tresnak can almost score at will. UND needs guys like Mitch Willmer and Brandon Brekke to step up defensively and stay out of foul trouble.
- Find a way to slow down Davion Berry. He scored at least 20 points in both meetings this year, and makes the Wildcats tough to stop when he is on. WSU has a lot of options, but when you have to put extra attention on Berry, he can hurt you because he is such a good passer as well, and he will find the open guys. I am guessing the assignment will fall to Troy Huff… and he has to do a decent job of containing Berry without help, otherwise the Wildcats are going to score in bunches.
Thoughts? Do UND or UNC have a shot tonight?
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