7-11 (1-5 MAC)
An Asset to the Class:
The Huskies already have seven wins and have a great chance to win more. The Huskies also lead the conference in rebounding, with over 38 per game. And NIU is ranked 18th in the country with 14.1 offensive rebounds per game. The Huskies have also found a way to win some non-conference swing games, like Loyola, UC-Riverside, and San Jose State. The Huskies defense has been playing really well, holding teams to an average of 66 points per game, and even held two teams to less than 50 points - Loyola (49) and Bowling Green (36).
Room For Improvement:
This season points have been hard to come by for the Huskies, as they are shooting just 38.2% from the field which ranks them 345th in the NCAA (out of 351 teams) and averaging just 62 points per game (ranked 334th). Bad shot choices and quick possessions have really hampered the Huskies ability to score. Nearly a third of their shots have been from behind the arc, where they have been terrible - shooting 26.8%, the third worst in all of college basketball. After going 6-6 in the non-conference slate, NIU still can't find a way to win in the MAC. They have just one win in six conference attempts this season and are a dismal 18-53 in conference since 2009.
Best Achievement So Far:
Their 45-36 win at Bowling Green. It showed just how well this defense can play, as they held BGSU to just 29% from the field, had eight steals, three blocks, and out-rebounded the Falcons 40-29.
Losing to two top-25 teams in a a two week span. On December 14th UMass, no. 22 at the time, routed NIU 80-54, and then on New Years Eve no. 13 Iowa State blasted the Huskies 99-63.
Plays Well With Others (NIU's top players):
The Huskies are a win by consensus team. The rotate Since Dontel Highsmith's season-ending injury, there have been two Huskies that have stepped up - sophomore's Darrell Bowie and Travon Baker. The 6'6 Bowie leads the team in rebounds, with just under 7 per game, and is the active scoring leader, netting 9.7 points per contest. Baker, who is on the court the longest, averaging over 26 minutes per game, is right below Bowie in scoring. He adds nine points per contest and tops the team in steals (1.4/game) and assists (2.6/game).
Next Four Games:
Jan. 29 @ Kent State
Feb. 1 @ Ball State
Feb. 4 vs Miami
Feb 9 vs Western Michigan
The Huskies have shown improvement this year and, with four games against Ball State and CMU in the future, are in a prime position to get to 10 wins for the first time since 2005-6. While 10 wins is not a great season by any stretch, it shows that Mark Montgomery has NIU going in the right direction. If the Huskies can find a way to take smarter shots and limit their 3-point attempts, or at least get a few more to fall in, NIU might be able to climb into a 9, or even 8, seed for the MAC Tourney. They have already reached our preseason expectations and should be able to surpass them shortly. I want to give them a higher grade because the recent state of NIU basketball has been dismal and they have shown they can play well. But they still aren't a complete team. They lack too much on offense to pose a real threat to most teams in the MAC.