The Cards will square off inside the Yum! Center on Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. vs. the Northern Kentucky Norse in the NIT’s 1st round. NKU was 22-9 on the season, 15-3 in the Horizon League and fell in the program’s first contest during the Horizon League Tournament to Cleveland State in Detroit, MI. Despite the loss in the Quarterfinals the Norse had a very strong year finishing #95 in the current KenPom rankings. NKU lost to Vermont, Memphis, East Tennessee St, UMBC, Texas A&M, Wright State x 2, Oakland, and Cleveland State.
Most notably in the NKU losses are the very thin margins….. The Norse are very tough to put away. 2 points loss to Vermont. 2 points loss on the road vs. Memphis. 1 point loss on the road to UMBC. 6 point loss in College State vs. Texas A&M. 3 point loss at home vs. Wright State. 2 point loss on the road vs. Wright State. 9 point loss to Cleveland State. Of the 9 losses just two of them were by double digits (13 vs. ETSU; 13 vs. Oakland).
Louisville is similar in that the Cards were tough to put away by most (except on the road vs. Kentucky & Duke), but UofL is in the NIT due to how it finished losing 9 of its last 14. The good news for fans of the Cardinals is that all of the losses in 2017-18 for UofL came at the hands of teams playing in the NCAA Tournament…. and none of those teams are in this tournament. So if UofL is eliminated from the National Invitational Tournament it will be the 1st non-NCAA Tournament team to beat the Cards in 2017-18.
UofL should dispatch the Norse Tuesday, but they will want to be careful…… NKU can shoot! The Norse hit 56% (17th in NCAA) of their 2 point attempts doing a ton of work on the interior. Northern Kentucky also is an efficient rebounding team while handing out 16 assists (27th in NCAA) per game. On defense the Norse take pride in defending the 3 point line allowing opponents to hit just 31.8% (16th).
The Cards will also have to deal with 4 guys (well they’ll have to deal with all of them really) from Kentucky that are a big part of the NKU plan: Drew McDonald (Cold Spring, KY), Lavone Holland II (Louisville KY-Ballard), Carson Williams (Owenton, KY), and former Cardinal Tyler Sharpe (Mt. Washington, KY – Bullitt East).
McDonald is a 6’7, 250 load in the paint averaging 16.9 and 9.5 per game. He makes things go for the Norse and Ray Spalding will have his hands full. Louisville’s gotta deny the entry or watch McDonald earn his 10th twenty point game.
Lavone Holland is Quentin Snider’s former High School teammate at Ballard. Holland is 6’1, 185 scoring 13.8 per game, shots the 3 at nearly 36%, grabs 4.1 rebs and hands out 4.5 assists per game. This match-up of former high school teammates will be fun to watch.
Carson Williams is a 6’5, 230 lbs wing who will give VJ King or Deng Adel match-up issues with his heft. So they’ll have to test his speed and athleticism. Williams scores 12.3, grabs 5.7 per game and can easily put together a double double performance.
The last player mentioned here is a player UofL is familiar with: Tyler Sharpe. The former Card has done well since transferring to NKU scoring 6.8 points per game.
Rule Changes For NIT:
It is notable the rule changes of the NIT and how they could affect the game. The tournament will use the FIBA rules (which will really be great for evaluating potential non-NBA pros). The wider lane will give more NKU more room to hit that 56% and the deeper 3 will make their 3 point defense even more dangerous. Also to note fouls will reset each QUARTER and offensive rebounds will reset the shot clock to 20 seconds rather than 30.
|Strength of Schedule (Ken Pom)||33rd||284th|
|PPG||76.2 (84th)||76.7 (79th)|
|Avg Scoring Margin||5.7 (68th)||9.5 (26th)|
|Field Goal %||45.6% (115th)||47.6% (33rd)|
|Effective FG%||52.1% (124th)||54.4% (42nd)|
|2-pt FG %||50.2% (163rd)||56.0% (17th)|
|3-pt FG %||37.1% (76th)||34.6% (187th)|
|FT %||73.7% (90th)||73.0% (117th)|
|FT Attempted Per Game||19.1 (182nd)||18.2 (236th)|
|Opp FT Attempted Per Game||18.3 (122nd)||18.2 (119th)|
|Rebound Rate||50.1% (166th)||51.7% (77th)|
|Blocks Per Game||6.1 (3rd)||3.2 (173rd)|
|Steals Per Game||7.0 (61st)||7.1 (53rd)|
|Assists Per Game||13.7 (145th)||16.0 (27th)|
|Turnovers Per Game||11.9 (81st)||12.3 (108th)|
|Opp Turnovers Per Game||13.4 (123rd)||13.6 (105th)|
|Team Fouls Per Game||16.5 (57th)||18.3 (189th)|
|Opp Shooting %||41.1% (26th)||41.4% (38th)|
|Opp Effective FG%||46.8 (15th)||47.1% (24th)|
|Opp 2-pt FG %||45.2% (20th)||46.8% (55th)|
|Opp 3-Pt FG %||33.3% (76th)||31.8% (16th)|
|Opp Blocks Per Game||3.2 (142nd)||3.6 (225th)|
|Opp Steals Per Game||6.1 (170th)||5.7 (111th)|