Northern Illinois @ Toledo Preview: Rockets Crashing

Your Northern Illinois Huskies (7-8, 3-0) vs. the Toledo Rockets (3-14, 0-3)
John F. Savage Arena, Toledo, OH
6 PM (CST), Wednesday
TV: N/A, Radio: WSCR / WSPD
Spread: Huskies by 4.5 pts
All-time series: 38-18 Toledo

I'll just get right down to point here: The Toledo basketball program is a mess.  Gene Cross is only in his second year coaching the Rockets, but he's already starting to feel the heat.  Since Cross took the job in April 2008, seven different players have left the team for various reasons.  From his original recruiting class of 6 players, three have left the program and one is taking a medical leave because of injuries. In addition to that, two holdovers from the previous regime were dismissed because they didn't meet program expectations.

The most recent departure was G Stephen Albrecht, who said goodbye to the Rockets after Christmas break.  Before he left, he was the second leading scorer for Toledo with 11.2 ppg.  Albrecht's production will be impossible to replace with the current roster that UT has.  The Rockets have one of the youngest teams in the nation and their only upperclassmen are Juniors Justin Anyijong & Mouhamed Lo.

It's really hard to find bright spots for the Rockets, but they do have a couple.  The majority of their points come from three-pointers, but that also took in to account Albrecht's production.  They have a freshman sharpshooter in Jake Barnett who scores 14.5 ppg and has a 42% clip from outside the arc.  The 6'8" Mouhamed Lo is one of the top defensive rebounders in the league grabbing almost 23% of all missed shots by the opponent.  Both Lo and Anyijong are pretty good at shot blocking on the defensive end as well.

On paper, the Huskies should win in a laugher, but I believe that is the wrong assumption.  With the Huskies fairly established at the top of the conference, there's no telling what the mental state of the team may be.  Worst case scenario that NIU will be a bit overconfident and the Rockets hit a couple extra threes than usual.  Or the refs take over the game like they did against EMU.  Whatever the circumstance maybe, Patton's road record still is putrid and the Huskies still have a lot to prove in Savage Arena.

Im wasn't even going to make a prediction for this game because I have no idea what to expect.  It could be anywhere within the -4.5 spread to a 30 point margin (THEY LOST TO BALL STATE 43-71!).  Let's meet somewhere in the middle.  Huskies 72, Rockets 63.

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