A college basketball game is 40 minutes long, and Nicholls’ coach Richie Riley makes sure the opposing team feels every second of it.
The Colonels wear down their opponent possession after possession and force them to play a pace they don’t want to. Thus far this season, Nicholls has averaged 93.3 possessions per game, nearly seven more possessions per game than the team with second-highest pace (The Citadel).
The Colonels seem to use those possessions with an ephemeral philosophy. If the current one isn’t working then get through it as quickly as possible, because it will make the next offensive possession come sooner.
This makes any deficit feel like it can be overcome. This was true last Sunday when Western Kentucky held a 62-32 halftime lead over Nicholls. The Colonels clawed their way back into the game, cutting the deficit to just 10 with two minutes left, before falling short in a 14-point loss. Although they couldn’t come all the way back, it should give their team confidence that no matter the deficit, they still have a chance if they keep the pace and force turnovers.
Nicholls’ offense is based on its defense. If it’s a made shot, they grab the ball and push. If it’s a rebound, they outlet pass, and push. If it’s a steal, they push and drive. Their average time of possession against WKU was 12 seconds per possession. On over half of Nicholls’ possessions, the Colonels shot the ball before the shot clock reached 17 seconds. In general, as soon as they get the ball they sprint up the floor before the defense is set and drive. If that’s not open then they pass out for a quick shot, and they rarely swing the ball around.
Against WKU, point guard Roddy Peters had 34 points on 25 shot attempts with six assists and four turnovers. Most of these stats were created within the first 10 seconds of the possession, and four of the assists were on three pointers. As a team, Nicholls shot 33 three pointers against WKU, just above their season average.
Nicholls’ defense is where it sets the tempo. Through constant trapping and double teams, the Colonels force opponents to make quick decisions in an attempt to force mistakes. They also are extremely physical. Against WKU, Nicholls had six players with four or more fouls, most of which happened with over five minutes left in the game. Of Nicholls’ 19 total fouls in the second half, and only two were of the end-of-game variety.
Nicholls unapologetically aggressive defense allows a high volume of points, but it appears to be by design. If the Colonels don’t force a turnover or trap within the first 10 seconds then it is usually a layup for the other team, and that lets Nicholls’ offense get back to scoring. To quote Bill Russell, “This game has always been, and will always be, about buckets.”
Nicholls takes that to heart.
The Colonels are lightning fast, shoot a high volume of three-pointers, and allow and score a crazy amount of points. If you have a chance to watch them, it will be some of the most fun basketball you will see all year.