So the next team on the docket is Northern Illinois. This is going to be one to keep an eye on. BG had the good win a week ago and then a total crash and burn on Tuesday, so this is one the Falcons are going to need. Again, we are trying to see if they are who they were thought to be or if they can exceed it. Most of the year they have been pretty much as expected. Falling to 1-3 in the MAC with 2 home losses will make the rest of the year tough to put together.
NIU is 10-6. The follow the EMU scheduling plan, except they have only played 3 non-D1 games. On the other hand, after Tuesday, maybe that's the secret. Anyway, they are 7-6 except for those games. Their best win was #197 Indiana State in the non-conference and they lost to the same Sycamore team as well as two others ranked in the 200s.
Then they opened the MAC season with a loss to Miami at Millett and things weren't looking right. Then, they rallied and beat CMU and Kent (erasing a 13-point 2nd half deficit) in DeKalb for their two best wins of the season. So, they are 2-1 in the MAC.
The Huskies beat BG by 11 last year in DeKalb and the Falcons swept them the year before that.
NIU is a little different from Kent and Ball State, which is to say they are a very poor team on offense. Their offense is #285 in the country. The problem is that the Falcons are in the defensive doldrums. Two of the last 3 games they have been torched, which has made them #227 in defense. So, those two "forces" will be at play Saturday. On the other side, NIU is very good on defense--that's the #80 defense in the country. And, of course, BG struggles to score.
NIU is very interesting. They are terrible shooting and protecting the ball. In fact, their shooting is in the bottom 15 in the country and turnovers are above average. However, they are very good on the offensive rebounds (#33) in the country and in getting to the FT line (#13). That's a worry because Bowling Green has yet to have even an average game on the defensive boards in MAC play.
NIU is good at getting to the line and average at making FTs. They take a very low number of 3FGs...they are #340 in the country at frequency and #345 at making them. And they are #300 at making 2FGs, so you can see where the poor shooting comes from.
When things flip around, as expected they are more evenly balanced. NIU is a decent defensive team and BG is a poor offensive team. They do force turnovers--a worrisome thing after the EMU game--but the remainder of the stats are pretty evenly matched. NIU only allows 46.7% on 2FGs, which is really good and will put pressure on BG's most effective method of scoring.
Like Akron, NIU plays a very deep rotation. They have 10 players who play 10 minutes a game and only one player who plays more than 30. They also have very balanced scoring. They have five players between 8.6 PPG and 13.8 PPG.
They are led by Marin Maric, their 6'11" SR Croatian C. He scores 13.8 PPG on 55% shooting and 6.8 RPG per game. Sr. G Aaric Armistead is also a double-figure scorer. He scores an extremely inefficient 10.1 PPG on 32% FG shooting, which is something you can see in the stats above. Their 6'8" SO F Jaylen Key also averages 5.3 RPG. This team has the kind of height that might make it really difficult for the Falcons. They certainly had similar issues with EMU's height.
Still, at home, this is one BG really needs. I mean, not like a title is at stake, but if you'd like to see the MAC season stay interesting as long as possible, then BG needs a win in this one.