Monday, February 15, 2016

Huskie Preview

BG will now match up with the team that might be the biggest mystery in the MAC.  And if there is a team that has had a worse last three weeks than BG, it is NIU.

At one point, NIU was 16-3 and 5-1 in the MAC, winners of 9 out of their last 10.  It appeared that they had been rewarded for the patience they have shown in their Coach, Mark Montgomery, as he has rebuilt a program that had sunk pretty low.

Then, well, something happened.  They lost five in a row...@AK, @Miami, Buffalo, @OU and @Kent.  Now, that is a looong road stretch, and they came out of it by beating Akron at home in their last game.  Even with all those road games, you can't lose at Miami and claim to be a conference contender...they have had two seven-game winning streaks and a 5-game losing streak.  At 6-6 in the MAC, and would be the #7 seed if the tourney started today.

Unsettlingly for BG, they are 14-1 on their distinctive home floor.

Overall profile here is a team that is 10th in the MAC in efficiency and equal to you get an idea what they are working with.  However, NIU is third in defensive efficiency and stronger than BG by a little.

On offense, working left to right, most important to least important, we see a team that is 8th in shooting and 9th in protecting the ball.  They are pretty good at offensive rebounding, though, at #4 and they are #5 in getting to the line, so those are strengths.  Honestly, their numbers are pretty consistent with BG's defense, so we have a good idea what to expect.  They are pretty much average elsewhere, near the middle of the pack in the rate of taking 3s, the rate of making them and also making free throws.

Defensively, they make their progress in the chart.  The are 9th in defending the shot and 11th in letting teams get to the line.  They are 3rd in causing turnovers, 2nd in rate of steals and 2nd in keeping teams off the offensive boards.  I'd look to that last one as a good point of battle, since it has been one of BG's stronger points this year. BG is last in the MAC in FT shooting, so it will remain to see if BG can capitalize on what appears will be a foul-plagued game.  Teams have taken a lot of 3s against NIU--highest rate in the MAC, though they have only slightly higher than average success.  NIU is vulnerable to the 2FG, at 9th.

Finally, NIU is 4th in the MAC in tempo, so that will be interesting.  BG is stronger if they are getting rebounds and can play in transition as opposed to half court.

Their leading player, by far, is Marin Maric, an Eastern European player who is 6'10" and scores 13.5 PPG and 8.8 rebounds.  He shoots 46%, which isn't great for a big man.  He was in a slump part-way through the MAC season, but he is hot right now, having double-doubled in the last four games.  Next is Aaric Armstead, who is scoring 12.9 on 43% and 38% shooting.  Their PG is Travon Baker, who scores an inefficient 12 PPG (39% and 35%) and 3.5 assists per game.  Finally, they feature Marshawn Wilson, one of the MAC's top FR, who is scoring 11.9 PPG in only 19 minutes, shooting 47% and 41%.

This is a young team, featuring only 2 seniors and 2 juniors.  I still think they are moving in the right direction and their mid-season struggle might be as much a string of road games as anything else.  This is a tough matchup for a struggling BG team, but maybe that old road magic can kick in.

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