It’s time for the madness!
The first step in that process will be against the North Dakota Fighting Hawks, the 15-seed in the West region.
North Dakota, winners of the Big Sky Conference, played only one Power-5 conference team in its non-conference schedule, the Iowa Hawkeyes, and it lost that game 84-73.
Overall, the Fighting Hawks finished first in their conference with a 14-4 record and won their conference tournament with a 93-89 overtime victory over Weber State. Nationally, they ranked 29th in scoring with an average of 80 points per game while they allowed 72 points per game, ranking 198th in the country.
Overall record: 22-9
KenPom Ranking: 173
Sagarin Ranking: 176
Strength of schedule: 304
Quinton Hooker, a 6-foot senior guard, is North Dakota’s top scorer, averaging 19 points a game, along with five rebounds and four assists per game. Hooker had 28 points in the Big Sky championship game Saturday on 50 percent shooting.
Geno Crandall, a 6-foot-3 sophomore, averages 15 points per contest while grabbing four rebounds and dishing out four assists a game. According to KenPom, Crandall is considered a ‘major contributor,’ meaning a quarter or more of the team's possessions end via him (shot, turnover, etc).
Corey Baldwin is also a player the Wildcats can’t let get hot. The 6-foot-4 guard is one of the team’s best outside threats, shooting 42 percent from deep. Baldwin also averages 10 points a game.
According to KenPom, North Dakota is ranked 200th in adjusted offensive efficiency and 149th in adjusted defensive efficiency. They, however, will play fast (34th overall in tempo) and they shot 38.4 percent from deep, 36th-best in the nation.
The Fighting Hawks, however, can be careless with the ball, having a turnover percentage (18.7) that is 189th in the country. They also don’t get many offensive rebounds, ranked 277th.
Reason to worry?
With Arizona’s size and defensive intensity, this is a rough matchup for North Dakota so there is little reason to worry.
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