Tomorrow night the Northern Illinois Huskies play host to the Western Michigan Broncos in the second-to-last MAC regular season game of the season. The game starts at 8:00 ET and will be streaming online at ESPN3. The Broncos are coming off an 80-72 weekend victory over cross-state rival Eastern Michigan while NIU impressively knocked-off top-tier MAC squad Central Michigan, 73-55. And tack on that a NIU win last week over Toledo. Both Toledo and Central currently sit tied for the top of the MAC with 11-5 conference records (along with Bowling Green). Not too shabby for the boys from DeKalb.
So needless to say the Huskies are pretty hot right now. More specifically, Huskie shooting has been absolutely lights-out. Against Toledo last week, NIU shot a cool 52.3% and on Saturday the Huskies went 25-44 (56.8%) against the Chippewas. And coupled with that 56.8% rate against CMU was the fact that it resulted in a major lead for NIU at the half (13 points) that the Huskies successfully defended through the second half.
But this isn't to say that Western isn't playing good basketball right now too. Freshmen Thomas Wilder (G) and Drake LaMont (C) had impressive showings against Eastern which saw them combine for 50 points (27 points for LaMont and 23 points for Wilder). And last week the Broncos took care of business in a victory over Ball State, showing stability albeit in a low-scoring affair.
Despite the fantastic performance from the youngsters against Eastern however, the Broncos allowed the Eagles to shoot well from beyond the arc and stay in that game. The Broncos have to stifle those opportunities for NIU however, or the accurate guard combo of Aaric Armstead, Anthony Johnson and Travon Baker could build up a lead against the Broncos.
Lookout for the down-low battles as well. Drake LaMont and Connar Tava of WMU going up against Jordan Threloff and Marin Maric of the Huskies, that is. I like the athleticism of Tava in this battle but Threloff will give LaMont especially tough defense.
Predicting the outcome of this one relies on if you believe NIU will keep shooting the way they have been and if the Broncos will be able to go shot-for-shot with the Huskies. What do you folks think? Who takes this one?