This is it. The chance for sole possession of 1st place in the MAC if the Huskies win. This also would be a clean sweep of the MAC West for the first go-around. It won't be easy though, as CMU was picked to win the MAC West in the coaches preseason poll and by Blue Ribbon. The big reason for that is because CMU is the 3rd most experienced team in the MAC with 3 Seniors & 4 Juniors playing most of the minutes. Compare that to NIU, who is the 4th LEAST experienced team playing in the MAC.
If the Toledo game was any indication of how we're going to play on the road against the Chips, then we're screwed. Hopefully that was just a warm-up road game and we can now put that stinker behind us.
NIU and CMU are similar in a lot of ways. 253rd & 257th in offensive efficiency, 72nd & 66th in offensive rebounding, 136th & 138th in defensive rebounding.
The first advantage that CMU has is on the defensive side of things ranking 117th in efficiency compared to NIU's 195th. The Chips are a very aggressive team and are 16th in the nation in forcing turnovers.
Their aggressiveness does have a fault in that they rank 344th (4th from last) in the nation in fouling other teams in the process. This opens up a big window for opportunity for the Huskies as they rank 90th in the nation in getting to the free throw line. If Xavier Silas and Jake Anderson don't draw fouls all game long, then we are not going to win this game.
On the offensive side of things, the Chippewas like to shoot three pointers like crazy. 35% of all of their points come from beyond the arc, which ranks 26th in the nation. As a team the Chips shoot at a 37.3% clip (66th). The players to watch out for on the outside include Seniors Robbie Harman (45.5%) and Jordan Bitzer (42.7%). They're scoring 14.4 and 13 ppg respectively.
Playing the point, Harman at is also one of the better defensive players in the league with a 2.4 steals per game. Inside the Huskies really have to worry about 6'9" Marko Spica, who the Chips try to get the ball almost 33% of the time (1st in the MAC). If they don't pass it to him, then he'll rebound it on the offensive end after a miss and try to draw as many fouls as he can. Both Spica and 6'8" Senior Chris Kellerman missed all of last season with injuries.
Keys to the game:
1. Get to the line. Jake Anderson & Xavier Silas might as well be wearing body armor for this one.
2. Guard the perimeter. This is where CMU lives and dies. The Huskies 3-point defense is pretty darn good allowing only 32.6%, ranking 109th in the nation.
3. B-E AGGRESSIVE. No sleepwalking like the Toledo game. CMU is going to come out and punch the Huskies in the mouth right after opening tipoff.
4. Don't get Techs or DQ'd. Seriously, CMU plays with a thug mentality that you can barely call basketball. Just stay tough and keep a cool head throughout the game (I'm looking at you DiNunno).
Prediction: Huskies 64, Chippewas 60