On Thursday, Northwestern will look to stay undefeated in the first round of the NCAA Tournament all-time as the Wildcats face Mountain West opponent and No. 10-seed Boise State from the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California. Here are some key numbers for the Broncos to get you up to speed and ready for the action.
This is Boise State’s NET ranking, per the NCAA, which is 14 points higher than Northwestern’s NET ranking of 41. Therefore, these rankings seem to suggest that Boise State is under-seeded and will provide a strong test for the Wildcats.
The Broncos enter the tournament with a very impressive 24-9 record, including a 13-5 record in Mountain West play. They boast a quality neutral site win against tournament team Texas A&M, along with home conference victories against tournament teams Utah State, Nevada and San Diego State. They lost in the semifinals of the Mountain West Tournament against Utah State.
Boise State only has seven players averaging double-digit minutes per game. Each starter averages at least 28.1 minutes per game, and three of their starters (Marcus Shaver Jr, Max Rice and Tyson Dengerhart) each play more than 32 minutes per game.
All members of the Broncos’ starting unit average double-digit points per game, too, with the aforementioned trio of Shaver, Rice and Dengerhart accounting for 57% of Boise State’s average scoring output. This lack of scoring depth is strikingly similar to Northwestern’s offensive situation, and it is likely that the team that does the better job of neutralizing the other team's stars will win the game.
Boise State, like Northwestern, is a very stout defensive team. The Broncos have given up just 63.7 points per game, a clip good enough for 28th in the country. The Wildcats are 18th in the country in scoring defense, surrendering a mere 62.3 points per game.
Looking at these numbers, it would be shocking if this game were anything but a good, old-fashioned rock fight. The Wildcats have played a number of these games over the course of the year, so they should be well prepared for a physical game with very few clean looks at shots.
This is Boise State’s turnover margin on the year.
Despite being a very good defensive team, the Broncos do not rely on turnovers. They only force an average of 11.9 turnovers per game, as compared to Northwestern’s 14.3.
Additionally, Boise State does not hold on to the ball as well as the ‘Cats on the offensive end, giving the ball away 1.4 times more per game than Northwestern. Given these numbers, NU really needs to win the turnover battle in order to pull out a win in Round One.
This is the three-point percentage of Boise State sharpshooter Max Rice. The redshirt senior ranked fifth in the Mountain West during the regular season with an average of 2.2 three-point field goals per game.
We have seen Northwestern get burned by good three-point shooters in the Big Ten such as Cam Spencer or Seth Lundy, so it is critical that the ‘Cats keep an eye on Rice throughout the contest on Thursday. Also, Chris Collins' team needs to look out for Boise State’s other main shooting threat, Chibuzo Agbo, who is shooting 40.8% from downtown.