After a five year wait, we made it to an NCAA Tournament game day. Tonight, at 6:20pm (TBS), our #3 Aggies will take on #14 seed Wisconsin-Green Bay.
Let's meet today's opponent.
Green Bay has been on fire lately, going 8-1 over their last nine and winning the Horizon league tournament as a #4 seed. Their biggest win in that stretch was a conference semifinal 99-92 (OT) victory over #1 seed and tournament hopeful Valparaiso.
They challenged themselves in non-conference play with trips to Wisconsin, Stanford, and Georgia Tech... but all three trips came up empty. It's worth noting that they pushed both Stanford and Wisconsin for the full forty minutes before losing late.
All in all, they went 11-7 in a one-bid conference and didn't really grab a win of note outside of the Horizon League. We'd classify their overall body of work as... "meh."
Green Bay plays FAST
The Phoenix win games in the Arkansas mold, flying around at a hundred miles an hour and trying to out-shoot their opponents. To them, an opponent's made basket is seen merely a mechanism to get the ball back in their hands.
They led the Horizon league in field goals made and field goals attempted, and they were second in points per game. Their shooting percentages languish at or below the middle of the pack across the board.
In short, Green Bay appears to have a "Twitter Journalism" approach to basketball. Things don't have to hit the mark, they just have to happen quickly and often. Eventually, you hope to get enough things right to justify the approach.
This is not an "upset" style
This is important. Double underline Al Gore super serial important.
History has repeatedly shown one clear "upset" style in the NCAA Tournament. You hit the boards hard, clamp down on defense, and play as slow as possible in order to reduce the overall number of possessions.
History has also shown that "upset proof" games tend to be played at a higher pace. The theory being that the increased number of possessions act as additional coin flips that allow the team with more talent to win out.
We don't play at that style, traditionally... but we are certainly capable of doing so. Our non-conference slate was littered with beatings when teams came in and tried to play fast, so it definitely sits in our hip pocket.
That leaves Green Bay with two options:
- Play to their strengths, which will lead to a style of game that objectively sees fewer upsets
- Adjust the very core of their game to be more "upset" friendly, while ignoring the tenets that got them to the tournament in the first place.
Both options are pretty Aggie-friendly.
Are we ready for the moment?
The Aggies have exactly one player (Anthony Collins) with NCAA Tournament experience... so there are no guarantees that we handle the spectacle early.
On the flip side, Green Bay hasn't been to the tournament in twenty years. This could have been an issue had we drawn the type of one-bid squad that tends to make the dance every other year, but the Phoenix certainly don't fit that mold.
When you add our performance in Nashville to the equation, I'm certainly willing to write this off as a push at the worst.
What do we need to do?
Take care of the basketball.
Green Bay thrives on pressure and chaos, and a couple of early turnovers / transition buckets could get the crowd going early. And the Longhorns play right after this game, so OKC will have no shortage of neutrals who want the Aggies to fail.
If we can manage the pressure, we'll be fine. Yesterday, both #14 seeds made a run in the second half to make things dicey before overall talent prevailed late... and that's about as close as we see this one getting.
The Phoenix might hang around for a while, but we're positioned pretty well for a second round game on Sunday.
BTHO Green Bay