Your Northern Illinois Huskies (8-9, 4-1) vs. the Ohio Bobcats (10-9, 1-4)
The Convocation Center, Dekalb, IL
7:00 P.M. (CST) Wednesday
Spread: Bobcats -1, All-time Series: 26-12 Ohio
TV: ChannelSurfing, Radio: WSCR / WXTQ
The west was won (kinda) by the NIU Huskies achieving a 4-1 record with their only loss a tough-fought road game against Central Michigan. Now comes the real meat of the schedule. Everybody knows that the MAC East has historically been the better division, but how good really are they this year? The first test comes in the form of Ohio, who has been sliding ever since conference play opened. Their only win is over a Buffalo team that is turning out to be a very terrible road team.
For some reason in the MAC, half-empty arenas are very intimidating to visiting opponents. As will be the case today for the Bobcats.
Ohio is very similar to Central Michigan in that the Bobcats are aggressive on defense and are very good at forcing turnovers (2nd in the MAC). This isn't good, because the Huskies have dropped all the way down to 300th in the nation in turning the ball over.
The biggest advantage that NIU has in this game is going to be in the paint. The Huskies rank 80th in offensive rebounding and the Bobcats rank 243rd. Rebounding on the defensive end, they're only 189th in the country. In fact their best offensive rebounder in 6'8" DeVaughn Washington will be suspended for this game because of violation of team rules. That leaves 6'10 Senior Kenneth van Kempen to fend pretty much all by himself under the basket.
With the frontcourt mess that Ohio has, look for our big men to take control in this game. I'm looking at Michael Fakuade & Sean Kowal to have a pair of breakout games. Fakuade especially needs to break out of his mini-slump. Even a guy like Tyler Storm can make an impact in this one.
You've already met D.J. Cooper, but Ohio's other offensive threat is Armon Bassett, a transfer from Indiana who scores 13.5 ppg. Also watch out for Tommy Freeman, who is a threat from the outside shooting 43% from three.
Ohio and NIU are the #1 and #3 fastest-playing teams in the MAC so expect a lot of fireworks. Also, the Huskies don't want to get into a free throw shooting contest, because the Bobcats shoot 75.3%, which is 12th best in the nation.
Huskies 91, Bobcats 89