Know Your Omaha Rival: Norfolk State

Mar 10, 2012; Winston-Salem, NC, USA; Norfolk State Spartans center Kyle O'Quinn (10) defends a pass from Bethune-Cookman Wildcats forward Garrius Holloman (23) during the second half of the final of the 2012 MEAC Tournament at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Norfolk State beat Bethune-Cookman 73-70. Mandatory Credit: Mark Dolejs-US PRESSWIRE

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In games like this, when Missouri is taking on an opponent it has had no reason to track all season, here is where numbers can very much come in handy. In gauging how good Norfolk State is or can be, we should start by using Pomeroy's rankings to compare them to other teams on Missouri's schedule this season.

No. 110 Mercer (Mizzou won, 81-63)
No. 111 Texas A&M (Mizzou won, 70-51 and 71-62)
No. 213 Norfolk State
No. 226 SE Missouri State (Mizzou won, 83-68)
No. 233 Niagara (Mizzou won, 83-52)
No. 234 Northwestern State (Mizzou won, 90-56)
No. 243 Texas Tech (Mizzou won, 63-50 and 81-59)

Mizzou played just five games against teams ranked within 50 spots of Norfolk State (all lower); they went 5-0 with an average victory of 80.0 to 57.0. So in looking at all the numbers below, that should be our starting point for the discussion.

Norfolk State Spartans (25-9)


NSU
Opp.
Pace (No. of Possessions)
68.0
Points Per Minute
1.71 1.63
Points Per Possession (PPP)
1.01 0.97
Points Per Shot (PPS)
1.27 1.16
2-PT FG% 50.4% 45.4%
3-PT FG% 31.1% 30.3%
FT% 65.3% 66.7%
True Shooting % 53.2% 49.7%




NSU Opp.
Assists/Gm 12.0 10.9
Steals/Gm 6.9 6.8
Turnovers/Gm 15.3 14.2
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
1.24 1.24




NSU Opp.
Expected Off. Rebounds/Gm 12.1 13.2
Offensive Rebounds/Gm 11.6 12.1
Difference -0.5 -1.1

Norfolk State won 25 games this season primarily through size. They outrebounded opponents, they shot pretty well near the basket, they drew fouls like crazy, and they prevented opponents from finding many easy buckets. Their ball-handling is suspect, and their 3-point shooting is actually quite dreadful, but their defense is solid (when they keep opponents off the glass, anyway) and they've got something that most teams in the country lack: a true, solid big man.

Ken Pomeroy Stats

NSU Offense vs MU Defense Ranks

NSU Offense MU Defense Advantage
Efficiency 239 76 MU big
Effective FG% 143 206 NSU
Turnover % 246 95 MU big
Off. Reb. % 145 163 Push
FTA/FGA 20 14 Push
MU Offense vs NSU Defense Ranks

MU Offense NSU Defense Advantage
Efficiency 1 174 MU Big
Effective FG% 2 33 MU
Turnover % 3 193 MU Big
Off. Reb. % 224 219 Push
FTA/FGA 138 194 MU

Where the Spartans are weakest

In short, NSU's weaknesses are quite weak. On offense, they rank worse than 240th in turnover rate (a red flag versus Missouri, to say the least), 3-point shooting (285th), free throw percentage (279th), and assists per field goal made (273rd), meaning they are not high on ball movement to create good shots (another red flag).

Defensively, they have fewer weaknesses. They allow too many offensive rebounds at times, they don't force many turnovers, and they foul almost as much as they draw fouls.

44th Def. A/FGM (opponents go one-on-one)

Where they are best

The Spartans get high-percentage looks inside (54th in Off. 2PT%), and they don't take many of the 3-pointers they can't make; they have a good understanding of who they are and what their strengths are. They draw a metric ton of fouls, which is obviously something Mizzou will need to watch very carefully.

Defensively, NSU can leverage you into poor shots. They rank 21st in Def. 3PT% and 70th in Def. 2PT%, and they rank 44th in assists allowed per field goal made, meaning opponents' ball movement hasn't led to open shots.

Norfolk State ranks 17th in Pomeroy's Experience measure; obviously Missouri (third) can top that, but this still isn't a team that is likely to be cowed by the moment. With five seniors in the rotation, this is a team that has spent quite a while working toward the NCAA Tournament, and they probably aren't going to settle for being happy to be there. The Spartans also rank a respectable 118th in Bench Minutes and 139th in Effective Height.

NSU's Season to Date

  • Wins Versus Top 200 (Team Rank is from KenPom.com)
    vs. No. 34 Drexel, 61-56
    vs. No. 141 TCU, 66-53
    No. 164 Long Island, 73-62
    No. 176 Savannah State, 60-58
    at No. 190 Toledo, 72-70
  • Losses
    at No. 18 Marquette, 68-99
    vs. No. 18 Marquette, 57-59
    at No. 85 Virginia Tech, 60-73
    at No. 86 Illinois State, 36-68
    No. 191 Morehead State, 69-75
    at No. 252 Delaware State, 50-67
    No. 252 Delaware State, 63-73 (OT)
    No. 279 Coppin State, 82-87
    Elizabeth City State, 57-69

As a whole, NSU seemed to play its best versus its best opponents. They went 1-2 versus Top 50 teams, narrowly missing out on an upset of Marquette (after getting drubbed by the Warriors the first time around), and they went 5-5 overall versus Top 200 teams. They knocked off one NCAA Tournament team (LIU) and another that probably should have made the tournament (Drexel). They suffered some baffling letdowns against lesser opponents -- there is not a rating next to Elizabeth City State's name above because the Vikings are in Division II's CIAA Conference -- but they seem capable of bringing their A-game when they most need it.

Norfolk State Player Stats

Player AdjGS*/Gm GmSc/Min Line
Kyle O'Quinn (6'10, 240, Sr.) 20.9 0.67 31.3 MPG, 15.9 PPG (62% 2PT, 18% 3PT, 70% FT), 10.4 RPG (3.2 OFF), 2.7 BPG, 1.4 APG, 2.6 TOPG, 3.2 PFPG
Pendarvis Williams (6'6, 195, So.) 12.6 0.44 28.5 MPG, 11.8 PPG (52% 2PT, 37% 3PT, 81% FT), 3.8 RPG, 2.5 APG, 2.1 TOPG
Chris McEachin (6'6, 195, Sr.) 10.4 0.35 30.1 MPG, 12.8 PPG (46% 2PT, 34% 3PT, 74% FT), 3.0 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 1.2 APG, 2.0 TOPG
Rob Johnson (6'7, 220, Jr.) 5.1 0.28 18.0 MPG, 6.4 PPG (57% 2PT, 28% 3PT, 73% FT), 3.3 RPG, 1.5 TOPG
Marcos Tamares (6'7, 210, Sr.) 5.0 0.23 21.4 MPG, 6.8 PPG (42% 2PT, 28% 3PT, 70% FT), 2.5 RPG, 1.4 TOPG
Brandon Wheeless (6'4, 205, Sr.) 4.8 0.30 15.7 MPG, 5.3 PPG (52% 2PT, 30% 3PT, 52% FT), 2.4 RPG
Jamel Fuentes (6'3, 175, So.) 3.8 0.20 18.6 MPG, 3.2 PPG (39% 2PT, 40% 3PT, 43% FT), 3.0 APG, 2.6 RPG
Rodney McCauley (6'5, 205, Sr.) 3.2 0.17 18.4 MPG, 3.4 PPG (42% 2PT, 26% 3PT, 55% FT), 2.5 RPG, 1.2 APG, 1.0 TOPG
Quasim Pugh (6'0, 175, Jr.) 2.8 0.25 11.6 MPG, 2.9 PPG, 1.4 APG, 1.4 RPG, 1.2 TOPG
A.J. Rogers (6'7, 220, Jr.) 1.8 0.18 10.2 MPG, 2.4 PPG, 1.4 RPG

* AdjGS = a take-off of the Game Score metric (definition here) accepted by a lot of basketball stat nerds. It redistributes a team's points based not only on points scored, but also by giving credit for assists, rebounds (offensive & defensive), steals, blocks, turnovers and fouls. It is a stat intended to determine who had the biggest overall impact on the game itself, instead of just how many balls a player put through a basket.

  • Highest Usage%: O'Quinn (25%), McEachin (24%), Williams (21%), Johnson (21%)
  • Highest Floor%: O'Quinn (45%), Williams (41%), Wheeless (37%), Fuentes (36%)
  • Highest %Pass: Fuentes (72%), Pugh (64%), McCauley (57%), Williams (52%)
  • Highest %Shoot: Johnson (54%), Wheeless (50%), McEachin (49%), Tamares (49%)
  • Highest %Fouled: O'Quinn (20%), Rogers (15%), Tamares (13%), Wheeless (12%)
  • Highest %T/O: Rogers (15%), Johnson (14%), Tamares (11%), O'Quinn (10%)
  • Strangely, NSU is simultaneously deep and thin. Ten different Spartans average at least 10.0 minutes per game, but only three make actual contributions to the box score. They have a lot of long role players, and that can certainly come in handy, but the team's success will be most likely impacted by three players: O'Quinn, Williams and McEachin.
  • Missouri could find trouble if the officials are calling it tight on drives. Eight of the ten players above had a %Fouled figure of at least 10%, and all ten were at least at 8%. Their game plan is to drive, dump to O'Quinn, drive and dump to O'Quinn. Obviously Mizzou should be able to counter a lot of this with quickness, but with whistle-happy officials, this could stay interesting for quite a while.
  • Only one of the top five players above had a %Pass figure higher than 32%. This team relies on individual creators. Honestly, that is a missed opportunity against Mizzou, a defense with plenty of quickness and one-on-one defending ability but with vulnerability against a quick passing game.
  • And yes, seven of ten players above are 6-foot-6 or taller. This is a long team. As we saw above, that doesn't naturally translate to success on the defensive glass, but it is an obstacle. (Hooray! I have thus far resisted the urge to make a "Norfolk State is long, strong and bound to get the friction on" comment!)

Keys to the Game

  1. The Whistles. Mizzou should by all means have too much for Norfolk State when all is said and done. However ... if Ricardo Ratliffe has two fouls before the first TV timeout, and Steve Moore picks up a second before the third TV timeout ... and Kim English is forced to body up against Kyle O'Quinn ... ? NSU is going to pound and pound and pound, and if Mizzou's positioning isn't sound, they could find themselves limited by foul trouble. In some ways, NSU is like a mini-Kansas State -- they can throw waves of similarly-talented bodies at you, and they don't mind getting into foul trouble if it means you do too. ("The Whistles" goes for NSU, too, by the way. Against their five best opponents -- Marquette twice, Drexel, Virginia Tech and Illinois State -- O'Quinnn fouled out three times.)

  2. Play Your Game. There is no reason to believe Missouri will tighten up or panic if things stay tight for a while. They haven't made a habit of it this season. But in theory, NSU is big and physical enough to hang around with the Tigers, and the imminent Mizzou run will only come if the Tigers continue to play their game and trust themselves. If NSU goes on a little run and we start to see quick Phil Pressey 3-pointers and out-of-control drives, however, there might be reason to get a little nervous. Run the offense, take good shots, play sound defense, win. While we're at it...

  3. Flipadelphia. We never necessarily know which Mizzou guard is going to catch fire, but one usually does, be it Marcus Denmon, Mike Dixon or Kim English. What makes Mizzou untouchable at times is when somebody is on fire and Phil Pressey is in complete and total control. As I said multiple times, despite Kim English averaging 23 points per game in the Big 12 Tournament, I'd have thought long and hard about giving Pressey the tournament's Most Outstanding Player award. Quite simply, when he is great, Mizzou is great. So, uh, be great, Flip.

Prediction

Ken Pomeroy's numbers say Mizzou 86, Norfolk State 63. The current line is Mizzou -21. The average score in Mizzou games versus similar opponents is Mizzou 80, Opponent 57. I think you see about where the pick should be. I'm going to say NSU keeps it a hair closer when all is said and done ... but only a hair. The Spartans are big and interesting, but I have total faith that Mizzou will make its typical Mizzou runs at one point or another, and the Tigers will advance to the Round of 32. Mizzou 88, Norfolk State 70.

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