Speed Demons. Northwestern State is headed back to the NCAAs for the first time in seven years after knocking out Stephen F. Austin in the Southland finals.
SFA and Northwestern State split the season series. The Demons score 81 points per game, most in the NCAA, while SFA had the fewest PPG clip in the country. Offense won out in the Southland, and so Stephen F. Austin will head to the NIT as a four-loss team. Another tragedy in a low-major league.
But the good news is Northwestern State is no pushover, no undeserving bid-winner. This group is virtually unknown nationally, but it's going to look to buck convention and run its opponent for 40 minutes. The Demons average 72.9 possessions per game, the most in college basketball.
That said, they're not incredibly or reliably efficient. The offense barely cracks the KenPom.com top 100 for points per possession. Still, this will be a fun team. If you've got these unknowns in the tournament, it's good to at least know they'll want to make a carnival out of the proceedings.
The school is also owner of what I think is the most overlooked buzzer-beater in tournament history. Maybe it's because the game was buried in the afternoon, and it was playing Iowa, but this is a ridiculous shot to win:
Player to know: DeQuan Hicks. The junior forward averages 14.1 points. He's second on the team with 5.8 rebounds. The Demons can spread around the love. But if it's late and the game's close, Hicks will need to be a go-to option. Small-conference teams usually must have some guy like this as an added dynamic to pull off the upset.
- Record: 23-8 overall, 15-3 in the Southland
- Most recent tournament appearance: 2006
- Jerry Palm predicts: 14 seed
- KenPom ranking: 133
- Sagarin ranking: 138
- RPI: 78
- Best wins: Louisiana Tech, Stephen F. Austin
- Worst losses: Nicholls State, Oral Roberts
- Notable stat: The Demons don't allow opponents to get the best of them once the ball is in the air. This team has its shots blocked on just 5.7 percent of its possessions. If it gets a shorter opponent that doesn't like to run as a No. 2 or No. 3 seed, then we could have a good chance at a total style clash and a really good game.
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