For the third time in four seasons, Concordia and NorthWood will meet in regional play, with the Cadets having won in 2012 and 2010. Longtime Panthers coach Steve Neff has not radically changed schemes since those meetings, which helps erase some of the uncertainty sometimes seen deeper in the playoffs when teams are unfamiliar with their opponents.
“We are going to see a lot of 2-3 zone with their bigs across on the inside,” Concordia Lutheran coach David Miller said. “They have guards that have pretty good quickness and they can create some things with their strengths.”
NorthWood (22-3) will indeed have the height advantage come Saturday, with the trio of Savannah Bley, Morgan Olson and Jordyn Frantz tough to deal with inside, especially on the boards.
With just one player listed taller than 5-foot-8 on the roster (Jackie Dixie), Concordia has had to deal with teams taller than itself all season, but has still amassed 17 wins. That has been achieved by a good mix of defense and offensive quickness in transition.
“There definitely is a matchup problem (inside),” Miller said. “They really look to enter into the post often and do a great job. It will be interesting as to how it plays out.”
NorthWood's zone defense has been particularly impressive over the last seven games, with the Panthers allowing an average of 27 points per contest over that span. You can expect Concordia (17-6) to attempt to quicken the pace of the game and not allow NorthWood to get set up in that zone.
As much as Miller has spoken about NorthWood's strengths this week, he has focused equally on his own team's strengths. Even with the knowledge of playing the Panthers before, with not much preparation time for such good teams, many coaches opt to focus more on what they do well.
“Every game we try to talk about what the opponent's strengths are and what can we do to counter that a bit,” Miller said. “But ultimately, we are going to try and do what we do best and do it as well as we can.
“It is all about execution on our end.”