The Texas Longhorns take the court tonight against Saint Francis (Pa). Saint Francis University is has an enrolment of about 2,000 students, and is located in Loretto, Pennsylvania, not far from Altoona. For those not familiar with Pennsylvania geography, Loretto and Altoona are in the Allegheny Mountains, about 90 minutes east of Pittsburgh and an hour southwest of State College. Saint Francis is one of two schools named after Francis of Assisi in the Northeast Conference. (The other Saint Francis in the NEC is located in Brooklyn.)
Coach Rob Krimmel's Red Flash head to Austin with a 2-2 record. Through their first four games, they have shown the makings of a defensive-oriented team that struggles to score.
On defense, Saint Francis looks to pack the paint with off-ball defenders, limiting penetration and post entry passes. When Texas has the ball on offense, expect to see a lot of congestion in the paint, as shown in the image below. Note that No. 10 in white has the ball, and Saint Francis (in black) has three players with feet in the lane.
The Saint Francis defense is probably going to challenge the Longhorns to make perimeter shots.
On offense, the Red Flash have had a hard time in the early part of the year. In their three D-I contests, they turned the ball over in 28 percent of their possessions, although in fairness a lot of those turnovers came in their season opener against Cincinnati's full-court press.
Krimmel's attack is led by 6-6 low post scorer Earl Brown. Feeding Brown inside is a big part of Saint Francis' offense, although Brown is also capable of facing up and working off the dribble. Brown's opening game against Cincinnati was a six-point, six-turnover disaster, and he will again be up against opponents with a significant size advantage when he plays against Texas.
The other front court player is 6-7 junior Ronnie Drinnon. Drinnon had a nice sophomore season, functioning as Krimmel's best interior defender. He works the glass inside, and the Red Flash offense also looks to feed him the ball on the block.
To be honest, I expect that Brown and Drinnon will have a tough time doing much against Texas' enormous front line. Saint Francis' best shot to make this game interesting will be if perimeter players Ben Millaud-Meunier, Malik Harmon, and Dominique Major can hit some threes. None of these three are shy about shooting from distance, as the Red Flash will shoot threes early and often.
Millaud-Meunier is a career 39 percent three-point shooter who's ability to hurt the defense drops the moment he has to put the ball on the deck. It is a similar story for Major, who has connected on 38 percent of his threes and 35 percent of his twos while in college.
Harmon is capable of doing a little more off the bounce, and along with non-shooter Greg Brown serves as a playmaker for the team. 6-3 senior Ollie Jackson will also put the ball up from distance. While he has struggled from three-point range throughout his career, he has had games where he has been effective from beyond the arc.
Outside of the first half against Iowa, Texas has looked sharp though its first four games, no matter the opponent. Tonight, we will get to see if the Longhorns can maintain focus against a low-major opponent before their big road trip to Connecticut.