The Most Recent Champ – Montana Western

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Today we shift our series looking at the most recent college basketball champions to the NAIA Division I champs, Montana Western. The Bulldogs were led by the great Brianna King who averaged 23 ppg for the season and scored 37 and 39, respectively, in the final two games.

Low Score Wins

The Bulldogs were actually the third-lowest scoring team of the last eleven champs averaging around 72 points per game. Outside of the 23 points per game scored by King, no one else averaged double-digits. Montana Western also gave up the third-least points per game of the most recent champions, just 52 points per game.

In spite of the low scoring overall, on trend with what we’ve seen in college basketball, the Bulldogs scored more points off three-pointers (35.9%) than any of the most recent champions. The Union (TN) teams from 2009 and 2010 made significantly more three-pointers in their championship runs but they were scoring 92 points per game.

The three-pointers skew their effective field goal and true shooting percentages to near the top of the list among the recent champions. Logically, when you’re pretty good shooters, there are less offensive rebounds to be had but moreso when you’re more reliant on the three-pointer, you’re not in position to get offensive rebounds. So, the offensive rebounding percentage was just 27.5%, well below the 40.5% average of the most recent champions.

Defensive Presence

For only allowing 52 points per game, Montana Western allowed its opponents to shoot slightly better than the average of the most recent champions, 36.9% overall and about 28.9% from the three-point arc. Where they distinguished themselves is in offensive rebounding percentage and free throw attempts.

The Bulldogs only gave up offensive rebounds on 23.8% of the time they were available, that’s the lowest of any of the champions since 2009. If you missed, you weren’t getting a second chance.

They were strong in getting steals and generally forcing turnovers but they only allowed 12 free throw attempts per game. Opponents shot less than 75% so there were only about 8 points coming from the foul line. When you’re going to shoot less than 40% from the field and not getting offensive rebounds, it doesn’t leave much room for error on the offensive end. Freed-Hardeman got 15 point from the foul line and shot closer to 40% in their semi-final overtime loss to Montana Western. They were the defending champs and were clearly able to upend the pattern to keep things close. In the end, the best player on the floor often has the last word and Brianna King’s 39 points in that game and her performance all season long made the ultimate difference in the Bulldogs’ championship run.