Team Profile: Louisiana Tech at Northeastern
Louisiana Tech (20-5, 8-3 WAC) at Northeastern (17-9, 12-3 CAA)
1 p.m. ET, Saturday, ESPN2/ESPN360.com
About Louisiana Tech: One year ago, Louisiana Tech went on the road in the Bracketbusters event and knocked off Murray State, 69-60. Nothing much was made of the victory because the Bulldogs were in the midst of a horrid season (the win against Murray State got La Tech to 12-16 overall) that would end with a sixth-place WAC finish and no postseason tournament. It was a mild upset due to the fact Murray State was on a roll in the OVC (Murray State won its last seven conference games with the La Tech loss splitting that win streak). What the win might have done was give La Tech the confidence it needed to make 2010 a great year.
What a year it’s been so far. The Bulldogs have reached 20 wins for the first time since 2006 and the upward climb is no doubt a huge reward for three senior starters who have gone through 10-20 and 6-24 seasons in recent memory. Kyle Gibson is one of those seniors. Gibson is averaging a team-high 21 points per game and dishes out 3.3 assists per game. He is definitely the catalyst on this team and, in crunch-time situations, the ball will seldom leave his hands. (It helps that Gibson is an 86.1 percent FT shooter). La Tech wouldn’t be successful without a complement on the inside, however. That complement comes in Magnum Rolle. Splitting time at both the center and forward positions, Rolle gives the team 14.7 ppg and 8.9 rpg and is a rare 6-foot-11 mid-major big man with major talent. Three other players – senior Jamel Guyton, sophomore Olu Ashaolu and junior DeAndre Brown – average between 10 and 12 points per game, respectively. The Bulldogs are a true team and it’s no surprise this team is contending for a WAC title with Utah State.
About Northeastern: Talk about a team that was left for dead before Christmas. Playing a fairly difficult schedule, but not one that was impossible to scrap together victories, Northeastern went 2-7 with losses to Siena, Rhode Island, Saint Mary’s and conference rival Drexel. But something happened before Santa climbed down chimneys across the globe, and the Huskies began winning. And winning. And winning. In the next 17 games, the Huskies won 15 with the only losses coming to Drexel and this past weekend to conference bubble team William & Mary.
Why all the success? Many will chalk it up to four returning starters, highlighted by do-it-all guard/forward Matt Jannings. While he does lead the team in scoring (15.1 ppg) and is well-rounded with 3.8 rpg and 3.1 apg, it is Jannings’s leadership that make him the team’s MVP. Based solely on statistics, the team’s go-to guy is undoubtedly junior guard Chaisson Allen. With 14.2 ppg, 4.6 rpg and a team-high 3.8 apg, Allen is more than just a compliment to Jannings. He might be Jannings v. 2.0 with less hype. Moreover, Allen is a better shooter (46% to 43%), free throw shooter (80% to 73%) and 3-point shooter (45% to 33%). But when you have to argue which of two above-average guards are better, the team you’re talking about has talent. Only two other players – senior Manny Adako and senior Nkem Ojougboh – average more than 9 ppg with 10.7 and 9.5 ppg, respectively.
By The Numbers
Vs. Top 50: 1-1
Last 12: 10-2
Tempo (Poss. per game): 69.6 (84th fastest)
Off. Efficiency: 106.6 (91st)
Def. Efficiency: 98.4 (124th)
Vs. Top 50: 2-4
Last 12: 9-3
Tempo (Poss. per game): 62.8 (323rd fastest)
Off. Efficiency: 107.8 (76th)
Def. Efficiency: 92.1 (44th)
NCAA Tournament Implications: Unfortunately for those mid-major fanatics, neither team has a resume that will hold up as an at-large candidate on Selection Sunday. A win against the other won’t really bolster either team’s case and a loss won’t be damning, but it will just be another loss in the RPI 51-100 column. Should either team win and advance to the NCAA’s as an automatic bid, however, this is the kind of game that can keep them in the 12-13 range rather than slipping to that dreaded #14 line.
Who wins: This game comes down to one word: Tempo. La Tech doesn’t like to run like North Carolina, but the Bulldogs like to push the tempo with nearly 70 possessions per game. (Digest this: Michigan State loves to run but the Bulldogs average two more possessions per game than Tom Izzo’s Spartans). Whether it is due to talent or a preferred style, Northeastern is your old-school walk-the-ball-up-the-court-and-drain-the-shot-clock team. With about 63 possessions per game, the Huskies like the low-scoring slugfests. Whichever team exerts its will on the other will win the game. Typically in this type of matchup, the stalling of one team leads to the other team pushing the ball up the floor less and less. That would give Northeastern the tempo edge. Couple that with the fact Northeastern has one of the best defenses in the country and the Huskies will protect the home floor.
Northeastern 69, La Tech 61.