clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

2017 MAC First Round Tournament Preview: Northern Illinois Huskies at Eastern Michigan Eagles

Two teams trending down face each other in the first round

Kenneth Bailey

The Northern Illinois Huskies and Eastern Michigan Eagles had climbed near the top of our power rankings earlier in the season, before the rails came off. The Huskies have lost 7 of the last 8, while the Eagles have lost 8 of the last 10. The two divisional foes split the season series, with each home team winning by double digits.

The winner of the game takes on #1 seed Akron at noon on Thursday.


Game Details

When: Monday, March 6th, 7 P.M.

Where: Convocations Center, Ypsilanti, Michigan

Watch: ESPN3, or via stream at the WatchESPN app

Listen: WEMU 89.1 in Ypsilanti/WLBK 98.9 DeKalb

Line: Eastern Michigan -6


Scouting the Huskies

Northern Illinois is a solid defensive team, tied for second in the conference in points allowed per game, at 70.6. A big reason why is that they are a solid rebounding team, out rebounding their opponents by 2.9 per contest.

Offensively, they struggle. There really is no go to scorer. Marin Maric is the team’s leading scorer, and he is the typical big guy that makes the most of his opportunities. He is shooting 56.5% from the floor.


Scouting the Eagles

Even though they have a losing record, the Eagles are 3rd in the conference in scoring margin. They are a streaky team that struggles offensively at times. When that goes south, the defense can then take a back seat.

Defensively, they lead the MAC in steals, at almost 10 per.

Their main Achilles heal is chemistry. I don’t mean that from the standpoint of how they get along off the court, or even on it. It’s how the pieces fit together, especially offensively. Their guards are all scorers. They don’t have a guy that can consistently get the ball to James Thompson IV, who is one of the best big men in the league. Tim Bond leads the team in assists, but that’s more a product of his active defensive play and dishing on the break than feeding the big man.


Player to Watch

Ray Lee, Eastern Michigan: A complete enigma. At the beginning of the season, he look poised to lead the team to glory. Then he failed to score in double digits in 8 out of 10 games. In his last 5 games, the senior has scored over 20 in 4 of them, including a 50 point performance against Central Michigan.

James Thompson IV, Eastern Michigan: In an era where there are very few true post players, this guy makes his living between the blocks.

Marin Maric, Northern Illinois: The last 5 games, Maric has been on a terror, averaging 18.8 points and 10.8 rebounds per game.

Eugene German, Northern Illinois: The freshman guard is going to be a special player in this league. He is extremely quick, and has been improving the entire season.


Keys to the Contest

Northern Illinois is at an athletic disadvantage in this game, and their guards must be able to protect the basketball. Along with protecting the basketball, they need to keep the Eastern Michigan guards in check.

Maric must be a steady force inside, and do his best to keep Thompson from reeking havoc on the offensive glass.

Eastern Michigan needs to find a way to score against a tough Huskies defense. Last time out, they got hot shooting by Lee and Mangum who combined for 43.


Predictions

Sometimes the past can predict the future, and I believe that is the case here. Not only did EMU win the most recent game, they were at home, just like this time. Recently Ray Lee looks like he is determined, where as earlier in the year he looked almost bored at times. I believe EMU wins a close one, 72-67.