Wofford has had, by almost any measure, a highly successful season. They are 28-6, won at North Carolina State, went 19-2 in the SoCon and earned a 12-seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Yet, there is a feeling that this needs to be the year that the Terriers break through and win a tournament game. This will be their fourth trip in six years, and first three have all ended with a one and done.
They head into a matchup with 5-seed Arkansas, which presents a unique set of challenges to the Terriers. Last week, when discussing the best match-up for Wofford in the NCAA Tournament, I said that they would probably prefer to play a team without a true big man that is better defensively than offensively. Consider this mission not accomplished. The Razorbacks' Bobby Portis was the SEC Player of the Year and is 6-11. He will be a matchup nightmare for Wofford. Combine that with the fact that Arkansas ranks 21st in Offensive Efficiency according to Ken Pomeroy, and it is easy to see why this would be a very tough game.
The Razorbacks are fairly big, ranking 56th in effective height; the Terriers rank 329. Lee Skinner is the Terriers big man; he is only 6-6. He plays with heart and he plays with energy. Skinner, in a lot of ways, is the heart and soul of the Terriers.
The intriguing thing about this matchup is the contrast in style. The Terriers like to slow it down and kill you with paper cuts. Their offense is fairly efficient when run crisply. Their defense is tough. In fact, Karl Cochran, the Southern Conference Player of the Year, is known for his scoring, but also his perimeter defense. Cochran will mostly shut down whoever he is guarding, even the athletic Razorbacks.
The Razorbacks like to press and run up and down the floor knocking down shots. Which style can win out? That's going to be a critical piece to which team is able to come up with the win.
Wofford played VMI twice, who plays at the fastest pace in the country, with full court pressure and fast shooting. The two games were each 69 possession games, a full eight below VMI's season average. The Terriers committed just 11.5 turnovers per game in those two contests. That comes out to 16.7 percent of their possessions that ended in turnovers, which is below VMI's 20.5 percent rate for the season. However, in the end, Wofford won by just a combined eight points in the two games. So, while they did a lot of things well in those two games, they did not dominate VMI in the end.
The Samford Bulldogs are the other SoCon team that employs full court pressure throughout the game. Wofford turned the ball over just nine times per game against the Bulldogs, just a 14.9 percent turnover rate. The Bulldogs forced a 21.1 percent turnover rate on the season. However, again, Wofford combined to win the two games by just thirteen points.
Arkansas forces turnovers at a 22.6 percent clip, better than either. Not only do they have Portis, but Michael Qualls is 6-6 and averages 15.5 points per game. Both of those two are matchup nightmares for the Terriers.
All in all, the Terriers are good enough to contend with almost any team in the country. However, it is tough to imagine them coming across a worse overall matchup against a five seed in this tournament. They will handle the Arkansas press better than most teams, but they will not be able to handle them on the defensive end. The press will not lead them to as many turnovers as the Razorbacks are used to, but it will lead to the Terriers offense being sped up a little bit, and some bad shots. This game will not be played in the 50s or low 60s like the Terriers want. They probably need to score in the mid-70s to win. I do not think they can get there.
The 5-12 upset is always a popular one. It would not be the biggest upset to see them come up with the win, but the Terriers are likely to not quite have enough in this one.