Saturday, February 16, 2019

Falcons Try to Erase Memories of Last Year's NIU Game

So the thing about being in first place is that nothing is easy.  I think you kind of think you get a really good team and it's going to be easy, but actually you need to have every game and everyone wants to beat you and half your games are on the road.

Which brings us to NIU.  They are 5-7 in MAC play.  They entered MAC play 7-6.  They did beat UB in Dekalb, but it might have been the worst thing that ever happened to them, because they then lost 5 of 6.  In that streak, they beat OU, lost @ AK, UT, BSU, @EMU and @WMU.  They are 3-3 in MAC play at home.  They are the only team to lose to WMU.

BG has lost last 2 in DeKalb, last year by 93-62.  We won there in 2015.

We are 5-5 over the last 10 years in total.

They are right in the middle of the MAC rankings.  They are #7 in offensive efficiency and #5 in defensive efficiency.  They score about as much allow, which you would expect of a team that's about .500.  Anyway, BG is near the top of the MAC in both.  In particular, BG has scored very effectively and defended effectively and if they can do that again, they can win the game.

Looking at the NIU offense, actually things are pretty evenly matched.  They are 6th in shooting, 7th in turnovers, but last in offensive rebounding and 9th in getting to the line.  BG should be able to control the boards--if they aren't that's a sign of trouble.

They don't take a lot of 3FGs....11th in the MAC.  They are 7th in 3FG% and 4th in 2FG%.  They are #2 in the MAC in the percentage of points coming from 2FG, so BG's going to be tough on the inside.  Also, while they don't get to the line a lot, they are the top FT shooting team in the MAC.

On the other side, actually all these lines are pretty close to each other, too.  They are also good on the boards, but they are pretty average defending the shot and on turnovers and they are last in the MAC in allowing FTs.  On both sides, if BG plays its normal game and NIU plays its normal game, BG should win, even at NIU.

Here's something that is interesting. NIU's opponents take a ridiculous amount of 3s against them.  In conference play, 50% of FG attempts are 3s.  The average is 38.  That's the highest in the MAC and for all games, NIU has the 3rd highest percentage of 3-point shot in the nation.  You'd think they would be easy to shoot against, but they defend 3FGs at 33%, which is better than average.  You might think they were easy to shoot 2FGs against, but they are right on the D1 average.  They don't block a lot of shots.  It's a mystery.  We'll see if BG takes that many 3FGs.

Individually, they are led by Eugene German, who is second in the MAC scoring 20 PPG.  (This is all games).  He's efficient, too, shooting 50% and 41%.  He averages 5.4 RPG and about 3 APG, leading the team in that category.  He was suspended a couple games ago and then came off the bench in the last one.  Based on offensive rating, he's the second most efficient player in the MAC among players using a high-level of possessions.  By the way, last year when NIU smoked BG, German had the craziest line. He scored 19 in 11 minutes without missing a shot and making 5 3FGs.

Levi Bradley is scoring 14 PPG, shooting 50% and 38%, which are also decent numbers.  He's a 6'7" Sr. who also makes 81% of his FTs and 5.4 RPG.

Senior transfer Dante Thorpe is scoring 14.1 PPG on 54% and 43% shooting, which is also pretty good.

Lacey James is their top rebounder at 6.8 RPG.

BG is a slight favorite, Kenpom thinks we are likely to use.  This is why winning is hard.  You have to go to DeKalb in the middle of February and beat NIU.

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