I thought I had an easy task in preparing today's game preview, since Marquette hosted tonight's opponent, the Spartans of Norfolk State, a week ago today in the "opening round" of the Paradise Jam. But then I looked back and realized I didn't write a preview of Norfolk State, since I was still reeling from the loss of my Ken Pomeroy-fueled charts. So: let's take a look at what we've learned about this year's vintage of Norfolk State since they absorbed a 99-68 beatdown from YOUR Golden Eagles seven days ago.
Ken Pomeroy pegs Norfolk State at 228, seven spots ahead of Marquette's opponent from last Friday, Winthrop, and sandwiched between a couple of directional schools, Western Kentucky and Eastern Illinois (or maybe Eastern Kentucky or Western Illinois. I dunno, I read it very quickly). The Spartans sit at 3-1 on the young season: after getting run out of the gym in Milwaukee, they defeated DIII Randolph by 20 (63-43) before springing a couple of upsets at the Paradise Jam: on Friday, the Spartans swiped a 61-56 victory from what was supposed to be a decent Drexel squad, and last night, Norfolk billyclubbed Texas Christian to the tune of 66-53.
Courtesy of StatSheet.com, here's a brief look at what the stats tell us about Norfolk:
(1) They'll run with you. In its four games, Norfolk has averaged 71.8 possessions per contest, with the high-water mark coming last Monday when MU and the Spartans played at a Loyola Marymount-ian 84(!!!) possession pace. And, as you might expect with a pace that fast, Norfolk tends to get a little loose with the rock: the Spartans have coughed up the ball 78 times in four contests for an average of 19.5 per game and a turnover percentage near 30%.
(2) They're not incredibly efficient on offense. Playing 70+ possessions per game, you might expect Norfolk to play most of its games in the 70s and 80s, but that hasn't been the case so far; the most points Norfolk has managed were the 68 it put up in its loss to Marquette. The primary culprits for the inefficient offense? All the turnovers, of course, but also 43% shooting from the floor overall and a cringe-worthy 54.9% from the free throw line. But the Spartans have gotten a big lift from their three-point shooting, which has been better than expected at 35%.
(3) They've been aided by poor shooting in their three wins. Since giving up 53.2% (overall) and 60.5% (eFG%) shooting to Marquette a week ago, the Spartans have held their last three opponents under 40% shooting. Let's toss Randolph out of the mix and focus on the two D1 opponents Norfolk's faced at the Paradise Jam:
- Drexel bumbled and stumbled to 38.6% (overall) shooting in their loss to the Spartans, and with a woeful 3-13 performance beyond the arc, the Dragons limped home with an eFG% of 41.2%.
- But Drexel had nothin' on TCU, which posted a staggering eFG% of 26.2% in its loss to Norfolk State last night. How does that happen, you ask? The Horned Frogs converted just 15 field goals in 59 attempts in yesterday's contest, including an absurd 1-18 "effort" beyond the arc.
Granted: I haven't watched Norfolk's last two games, so it's entirely possible that those pitiful performances are the result of great defense from Norfolk. I don't know if it's likely that that's the root cause, but it's certainly possible.