Seven years ago, Northwestern State busted a few brackets.
On March 17, 2006, the Demons provided the biggest upset of that spring’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament as a 14th seed, upsetting third-seeded Iowa 64-63 on Jermaine Wallace’s three-pointer with half-a-second left.
Seven years later, the Demons have not forgotten that shot.
“That’s kind of the buzz around here,” freshman guard Jalan West said Monday in a conference call. “I think we want to make a buzz for ourselves.”
This year’s Demons have a chance to create their own buzz in Austin on Friday. Northwestern State — the nation’s highest-scoring team — plays Florida in a South Region second-round game at the Erwin Center.
Once again, Northwestern State will be a No. 14 seed. Florida is the South’s third seed.
“We’ve got the opportunity, and we’re going to make the best of it,” senior forward James Hulbin said.
The Demons (23-8) are making their first NCAA tournament appearance since that 2006 season. Northwestern State went 17-15 in 2007, then posted a losing record for three straight years, lost its first game at the Southland Conference tournament in each of the past two seasons.
“This is kind of the cycle that I think you end up being in at this level of play,” Demons coach Mike McConathy said of his team’s turnaround.
Averaging 81.0 points a game, Northwestern State is Division I’s top-scoring team. Junior forward DeQuan Hicks (14.1 points per game), senior guard Shamir Davis (12.5), Hulbin (12.1) and West (10.3) all average double-digit scoring totals.
The Demons also boast some depth; Davis is the only one of those double-digit scorers who has started more than five games this season.
Friday’s opponent, Florida, allows only 53.7 points a game. That ranks the Gators third nationally in points allowed.
Florida is making 38 percent of its three-point attempts. There are also four Gators who score more than 10 points per game.
“There are 66 other teams in the tournament, and I don’t know if we could have gotten one that would be possibly (a more) difficult match as far as style … because they do many things well,” McConathy said. “On the other hand, they’re so good on the defensive end.”
Northwestern State and Florida have never played before, but the Demons have faced three SEC opponents this season. The Demons lost games against LSU and Texas A&M in November, and Arkansas beat the Demons 79-61 on Dec. 29.
The Demons will try to fare better against their fourth foe from the SEC.
“I think we had a chance to beat some of those teams, but we fell short,” West said. “They controlled the tempo, but if we can get Florida to play the tempo that we want, I think we have a pretty good chance.”
MAKING THEIR POINTS
A look at the nation’s five highest-scoring teams — and how their seasons fared:
Northwestern St.;81.0;14th seed in NCAA tourney
Iona;80.7;15th seed in NCAA tourney
Indiana;80.0;No. 1 seed (East) in NCAA tourney
Iowa St.;79.6;10th seed in NCAA tourney
LIU-Brooklyn;79.5;Faced James Madison in Tuesday’s NCAA play-in game
But what about the nation’s toughest defensive teams?
Stephen F. Austin;51.0;Southland regular-season champs made the NIT
Western Illinois;52.7;Missed NCAA, NIT fields, but in the CBI
Florida;53.7;No. 3 seed in NCAA tourney, facing Northwestern St.
Virginia;55.1;Missed the NCAAs, but a No. 1 seed in the NIT
Savannah St.;55.2;Playing in the CollegeInsider.com tourney