Coming in at number 10 on our list, the Northern Illinois Huskies have a lot of work to do this season. They lost 3 starters off a team that finished 15-17 overall and 7-11 in the MAC. Marin Maric led the team in points and rebounds per game, Aaric Armstead was 4th in scoring and second in rebounds, and Dontel Highsmith averaged 6.9 points per game was second on the team in assists. Also gone is Laytwan Porter, who led the team in assists.
While there are a lot of holes to fill, there seem to be some pieces to do exactly that. Eugene German came on strong at the end of last season, and averaged 9 points per game. A dynamic play maker, I expect big things from the 6 tall sophomore from Gary, Indiana. Also returning is Jaylen Key, who averaged 8 points a game and 4.3 rebounds. Levi Bradley, a 6’7 forward, averaged 8.8 points per game last season.
After winning 21 games in 2015-16, the Huskies took a bit of a step back last year. Timing can be everything. Center Marin Maric was the main man and the league was extremely deep at center. A freshman last season, German was raw and playing great basketball at the end of the season, but the team never quite found their rhythm.
This year, they are hard to predict. There are several nice pieces and I think German is going to be a fantastic player. Owen Hamilton is a 7 foot freshman that averaged 25 points and 12 rebounds as a senior in high school. Giarges Daow, a 6’4 freshman guard could be a perfect complement to German. There are a few transfers, along with Bradley and Key on the wings that could fill out the squad and make it formidable. I just don’t know how long it will take everything to come together. This team reminds me a lot of the Western Michigan squad last season. A lot of good pieces that finally came together to go on a long winning streak at the end of the season.
Unlike last season, when I was high on WMU from the get go, I am going to temper my excitement for this team until I see them gel.