Coming into this season, many people expected the Northern Illinois Huskies to finally climb out of the basement of the MAC. With Darrell Bowie, Jordan Threloff, and Aaric Armstead all returning, the Huskies were supposed to be a spoiler team that may not be able to make a run at a MAC title, but could derail the season for the real contenders.
Before conference play began, junior guard and the team's leading scorer Bowie suffered a shoulder injury. Bowie averaged 12.5 points per game and seven rebounds before going down. It didn't look like the injury would be too much of an issue after the Huskies opened MAC play with a 70-60 victory at Ohio. Since then, however, we have found out that Ohio's problems are a lot worse than anyone thought. Since that opening night victory, the Huskies have lost three in a row.
Northern Illinois plays pretty stout defense. The Huskies only allow 65 points per game while picking up nearly eight teals. Threloff makes this team excellent at rebounding as they come into the game at 59th in the nation at nearly 38 rebounds per game. Unfortunately for the Huskies, basketball is about more than rebounding. They have won the rebound battle in two of the three losses in the losing streak, but haven't notched a tally in the win column.
Offensively, it's been difficult for Northern Illinois. They only score about 66 points per game and a dismal nine assists. Assists are more important than you would think. They signify that team is moving the ball and finding the open man, and the Huskies are struggling in that department.
The Akron Zips bounced back from a 17-point loss to Toledo with two home wins against Bowling Green and Central Michigan last week. They blew out Bowling Green by seventeen, and it really wasn't even that close. The Zips jumped on Central Michigan early, but ended up grinding out a victory after an enormous comeback by the Chippewas.
Cardinals look to get back on track against Ohio
Before conference play started, no one would have been thought crazy for expecting the conference records of Ball State (2-2) and Ohio (0-4) to be flipped. Then again, the MAC is a crazy thing.
Reggie McAdams hasn't had much of an opportunity to be successful this year. On Saturday against Central Michigan, his team ran plays to get him open and he scored 31 points. The last Zip to score thirty was Romeo Travis in 2007.
Akron can dominate both sides of the ball. The Zips put up 70 points per game with seven players scoring at least five points per game. However, defense is the specialty of this team. Akron only gives up 62 points per game while recording five blocks and seven steals per game. The five blocks per game stands at 39th in the nation. Pat Forsythe and Kwan Cheatham Jr. lead the defense with 1.5 blocks per game apiece.
One thing that Akron was missing last year was a true point guard. True freshman Noah Robotham from Las Vegas has stepped up this year. He leads the offense with a lot of poise and has limited his mistakes.
With all of that said, no team in this conference is a pushover. I won't make a prediction because I have no idea what to expect. Make sure you tune into this game on Wednesday night.
When: Wednesday January 21, 8:00pm EST, 7:00pm CST
Where: Convocation Center, DeKalb, Illinois
TV: ESPN3.com and the WatchESPN app.
Radio: Akron-1350 AM WARF Akron on the Akron IMG Sports network, available on IHeart Radio.
Northern Illinois-92.5 WCPT FM in DeKalb.