First Look: Wofford Terriers

Dylan Burkhardt
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Karl Cochran, Spencer Collins and Lee Skinner

Michigan will face Wofford in the NCAA tournament round of 64 on Thursday. Here’s a first look at what the 15th seeded Terriers bring to the table.

Wofford is located in Spartanburg, SC and has an enrollment of just 1,588 students. The Terriers made the transition to Division I and the Southern Conference in the mid-90s and have built a formidable program in the last decade. Head coach Mike Young has been coaching at Wofford since 1989. He was an assistant until 2002, when he took over head coaching duties.

He’s been named Southern Conference Coach of the Year in 2010 and 2014 and took Wofford to its first NCAA tournament appearance in 2010. The Terriers were a 13 seed then and almost upset Wisconsin before falling 53-49. Wofford went back to the tournament in 2011 as a 14 seed and lost 74-66 to BYU.

Wofford has been close to a marquee upset, but hasn’t been quite able to get over the hump. This year’s team is ranked 184th by Ken Pomeroy and doesn’t look quite as formidable as the last two Wofford teams that made the dance, which were both KenPom top-100 squads.

The Terriers finished the season 20-12 and finished third in the Southern Conference with an 11-5 league record. Looking at the efficiency margin statistics, the Terriers appear to have been the second best team in the SoCon, but avoided the best team, Davidson, after it was upset by Western Carolina in the conference tournament. 

The Terriers are very excited to be in the NCAA tournament, judging by this reaction video from Wofford’s official site.

Wofford head coach Mike Young had plenty of praise for Michigan after the bracket was unveiled.

“As the teams came up on the bracket, it was like, ‘I don’t want to play them. And I certainly don’t want to play them. …’ ” Wofford head coach Mike Young said. “I don’t really want to play any of them. Michigan? I’d rather play the Milwaukee Bucks. But you have to play somebody great. When you’re a low seed, you know that opponent is going to be just terrific.”

The Terriers aren’t a big team, their starting five stands 6-foot-1, 5-foot-11, 6-foot-4, 6-foot-6 and 6-foot-7. Wofford doesn’t have a rotation big man taller than 6-foot-7.

6-foot-8 big man Aerris Smith drew headlines from this impassioned post game interview after Wofford won the SoCon Tournament, but that was his last game. Smith underwent season ending knee surgery and won’t play in the NCAA tournament. Smith was the biggest player in Wofford’s rotation, but he played a supporting role.

The Terriers’ best win this season is over Elon and they don’t have a win over a team ranked better than 200th per KenPom. Wofford has played plenty of familiar teams in Minnesota (79-57 loss), Georgia (72-52 loss), Saint Louis (66-52 loss) and VCU (72-57 loss) and lost both games to Davidson, the regular season SoCon champs, by a combined 25 points.

The offense

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Wofford doesn’t beat itself offensively, but the most notable element of the Terrier offense is their pace. The Terriers are ranked 339th out of 351 teams in pace and want to play as slow as possible. They only turn the ball over on 14% of their offensive possessions, but don’t do much else exceptionally well. The graph above compares Wofford’s four factors stats compared to the rest of the tournament field. The Terriers are one of the worst offenses in the tournament, aren’t a great shooting team and struggle to get to the free throw line.

Almost half of Wofford’s offense is run off of screens, or spotting up on the wing.

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Data: Synergy Sports

Karl Cochran, 15.7 points, 5 rebounds, three assists per game, is Wofford’s leading scorer. He accounts for 65% of the Terriers’ made threes on the season and he’s also responsible for a third of the Terriers’ spot up possessions and over half of their possessions off screens. Cochran is a good shooter on the catch (51.7 eFG% on catch and shoot), but he can also shoot off the dribble. He’s one of Wofford’s primary isolation and ball screen threats, but doesn’t grade out very well in either department.

The previous graph showed what Wofford likes to do, the next graph shows how effective the Terriers are at running different offensive sets.

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Data: Synergy Sports

The Terriers are a very effective transition team, but don’t run that much – evident from their extremely slow pace. The Terriers run on just 10.6% of their offensive possessions and score 1.19 points per transition possession. For comparison, Michigan runs on 15.5% of its offensive possessions and scores 1.237 points per transition possession. Wofford runs about as much as Northwestern (10.2% of possessions) or Wisconsin (9.4% of possessions).

Spencer Collins and Lee Skinner are Wofford’s other double-digit scoring threats. Skinner stands just 6-foot-6, but 30% of his offensive possessions are post-ups. His best asset appears to be his ability to get to the free throw line.

Collins is a 6-foot-4 guard that is most comfortable in transition, but he’s also Wofford’s most effective pick-and-roll player. Collins is a much bigger threat off the bounce in isolation situations but he has just a 45.1 eFG% on catch and shoot jumpers.

The defense

Defensively, the Terriers grade out a little better but they are still the 12th worst defense in the tournament field. Wofford does a good job on the defensive glass despite its size, and also forces turnovers at a fairly high rate.

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One of the more unique elements of the Terrier defense is its ability to limit the three-point shot. Wofford opponents are attempting just 28% of their field goal attempts outside the arc, 37th fewest in the country.

Wofford will play almost strictly man-to-man defense as 98.3% of its defensive possessions have been in man-to-man, per Synergy. 6-foot-7 CJ Neumann is Wofford’s primary post defender, but 6-foot-6, 220 pound Lee Skinner is the better rebounder

Tempo seems to be the biggest key in this one. Last year Michigan faced a South Dakota State team that wanted to run and shoot with the Wolverines and Michigan blew them off the floor. Limiting possessions is the first step to a major upset and Wofford is going to make every effort to do that. The Terrier do a decent job of limiting transition opportunities (just 11.3% of defensive possessions), but are ranked in just the 42nd percentile in transition defense, per Synergy.

The Terriers are 2-12 when their opponents top 1 point per possession offensively and are 18-0 when they manage to hold their opponents under that mark.

Texas and Arizona State

No. 7 Texas (39th KenPom) and No. 10 Arizona State (47th KenPom) could provide an intriguing round of 32 matchup for the Wolverines if they can top Wofford.

Texas has limped into the tournament, going just 5-5 down the stretch. The Longhorns have a dynamic but somewhat inefficient freshman guard, Isaiah Taylor, and an imposing post duo of Jonathan Holmes (6-foot-8, 240 pounds) and Cameron Ridley (6-foot-9, 285 pounds). Texas is the sixth best offensive rebounding team in the country, but shoots just 46.9% on twos (244th) and 32.4% on threes (266th).

Arizona State isn’t much better of late, the Sun Devils have lost five of their last seven games and were blown out by Stanford in the Pac 12 Tournament. Arizona State has one of the more electric guards in the country, Jahii Carson, who averages 18.6 points, 4.5 assists and 4.0 rebounds per game. Carson does things like this:

But he has an offensive rating under 100 and shoots just 44% on twos.

Fifth-year transfer Jermaine Marshall, a former Penn State player, joins Carson in the backcourt. The Sun Devils have good size, ranked 10th in effective height by Kenpom, thanks to 7-foot-2, 248 pound senior big man Jordan Bachynski.

  • mistersuits

    I hate adidas so much.

    Also, my eyes are just bleeding this morning watching ESPN analysts go 7 for 7 in picking MSU to win it all with 5 of them picking MSU/Louisville title game.

    • What’s wrong with Adidas now?

      • mistersuits

        The never ending stream of slogan t-shirts that are copy and paste for every team to wear. It’s the Wolverine Way vs The Terrier Way!

        • Mark Worthley

          I agree that the effect is completely lost if you see virtually the identical shirt just with different colors worn by every other Adidas team.

        • Ben Sheler

          The team should be able to/asked to come up with their own unique slogan for their t-shirts. Like “WE ON.” That was cool and something they came up with.

        • rlcBlue

          As Jon Horford read in the Atitao Te Ching:

          The Way that can be monetized is not the common Way.
          The T that can be mass-produced is the not the true T.

    • Ben Sheler

      Realistically we all probably know more about MSU than they do. We have watched and followed them much more than they have. They are just as capable of looking terrible as they are looking good, even with not having to play weird guys.

  • gobluemd16

    Assuming we can get by Wofford, I think I’d rather play ASU. Texas’ size down low and apparent rebounding prowess would scare me more. What do you think, Dylan and co.?

    • Yeah, worry about Texas’ offensive rebounding, but Jahii Carson could give Michigan fits too potentially. The good news is that both teams are kind of slumping…

      • arete

        Don’t be scared guys. We are a #2 seed. Act like it.

        • kam

          lololol

        • robpollard

          I am with you!
          I mean, I completely understand the team not taking Wofford lightly, but as fans — I expect a blow out. We are good and they are not good.
          And then in the second round, anything can happen, and it very likely won’t be a cakewalk, but we are definitely better than either Texas or ASU.
          There are no excuses with this draw in not getting to at least the Sweet Sixteen. After that, it will be nailbiting time, but that will be part of the fun.

      • guestavo

        ASU has good defense (Kenpom 27) and a high volume, streaky guard… we’ve seen this before. Bachynski is the best shot-blocker in the country and would give our wings fits. Bring on Texas.

      • yinkadoubledare

        And also in the good news category, Texas is still coached by Rick Barnes.

  • Chezaroo

    This team lost by 20 plus to Minny, and doesn’t appear to have any quality big men to worry about. We’re favored by double digits and should take this handily in my opinion. No way to tell who wins the other half of bracket, but I love our chances against either! Let’s get the first one and let the staff get us ready for either-or.

  • jakelam2116

    My thoughts:

    1) I’m kind of scared of how unafraid I am of Wofford. Does that make any sense? Compared to SDSU last year, on paper they don’t seem like a threat.

    2) I saw ASU play in person in January and watched most of its game against Arizona (when it should have gotten a T at the end for Carson hanging on the rim for, like, 5 seconds). He’s good and the big fella is a force, but their offense has terrible flow and they don’t shoot well.

    3) I’d be more worried of Texas and its offensive rebounding ability. I haven’t watched a Longhorns game this year, but size and strength is always a worry for this UM team.