The Western Michigan Broncos are riding a 6 game winning streak. The Northern Illinois Huskies have lost 5 out of 6. The Broncos are tied for the lead in the MAC West, while the Huskies are only two games back. The Huskies desperately need to change their momentum before heading into the MAC tournament.
When: Tuesday, February 28th, 8 p.m.
Where: NIU Convocation Center, DeKalb, Illinois
Watch: ESPN3, or via the WatchESPN app
Listen: 96.5 WZOX in Kalamazoo/WLBK 98.9 in DeKalb/WYLL 1160am in Chicago
Line: Northern Illinois -2
Scouting the Broncos
The Broncos are a team that came into the season with a lot of new faces. They had a solid core of returning players, which helped the younger players learn the system. All that hard work is now starting to pay off, as the Broncos have won 6 games in a row.
Thomas Wilder, the Broncos point guard, is one of the best in the league. His skill set and athleticism reminds me a lot of former BGSU great Antonio Daniels.
Playing better team defense is a huge reason why the Broncos have been on their run. In their last two games, they have held Toledo and Ball State under 56 points each. Those two teams are the number 2 and 3 offenses in the MAC.
Scouting the Huskies
The Huskies are tied for the lead in the MAC in scoring defense. They are second to last in offense.
They don’t shoot the ball particularly well from the outside, which makes it harder for Marin Maric, their leading scorer, to work inside. When they are hitting, their offense is much more effective.
Players to Watch
Marin Maric, Northern Illinois: Maric is averaging 20 points and 10.7 rebounds over his last three games.
Eugene German, Northern Illinois: The freshman has been on my radar for a while now. He possesses unnatural quickness, and has been playing extremely well as of late. He is averaging 21 points a game over his last 5. Watching to see how he does against the veteran Thomas Wilder is must watch TV.
Thomas Wilder, Western Michigan: Truly one of the best players in the MAC, I am interested to see how he handles the athleticism of German.
Reggie Jones, Western Michigan: A freshman phenom in his own right, Jones missed the last game these two teams played. He has only scored in double digits once since then.
Keys to the Game
The Huskies need to knock down some shots to allow for more space Maric to work inside. The Broncos have several athletic wing players that can pack down the middle, which is what I expect them to do.
For the Broncos, they need to keep up the defensive intensity on the road. They have been a terrible team on the road for most of the year, though they did take down the Rockets in Toledo last Tuesday. If they can shut down Toledo and Ball State, they can certainly shut down Northern Illinois if they put their mind to it.
Northern Illinois will struggle to score, and Western Michigan will get it done on the road, 75-65.