TOP RATED PLAY ON:
N Illinois -4
This is a rematch between MAC foes…The first game was won by the Huskies at Kent State, 74-70 in OT… And the Golden Flashes are coming into this game off a win over Toledo, which stopped their 4 game losing streak…N Illinois, on the other hand, comes in off a loss to Ohio, which halted their solid 4 game winning streak.
The Golden Flashes surely will be looking for some payback after that home loss to the Huskies…However, below are some Keys to this matchup which I believe will give the Huskies the edges and thus their 2nd straight win against the visiting Flashes.
KEY #1:……The Huskies play better overall defense.
Kent St currently leads the MAC and ranks 2nd and 14th in the nation, in both rebounding offense and rebounding margin, at +7.8 pg…However, the Huskies are not bad themselves at banging the boards…Currently the Huskies are 2nd to Kent St and 25th in the nation in offensive rebounding and 67th in rebounding margin, at +4.5.
Side Note: In the first game, the Huskies dominated the boards and had the rebounding edge of 44-to-35…They also had the edge on the offensive boards with an offensive rebounding edge of 21-to-10.
Both teams leading rebounder is averaging similar numbers, with the Golden Flashes Hall averaging 10.6 rpg and Huskies Maric, averaging 10 rpg…This game again should see a good battle down low…But, this time I have to side with the Huskies 6’11” Maric over the 6’8” Hall, as he will be even more motivated to show that the last game, where he was the dominant board banger, was not a fluke.
Side Note: In the first game between these two…the Huskies 6’11” Maric was dominant as he scored 19 points and 11 rebounds…while the Golden Flashes 6’-8” Hall only had 7 points and 5 rebounds in the lost.
In conference play, the Golden Flashes defense has been allowing opponents to average 80.7 ppg, 46.6% shooting from the field and 37.8% from long range…This poor defensive statistic, especially on the road, is why the Golden Flashes are just 2-4 in conference play…The Huskies on the other hand, has been holding conference opponents to just 68.3 ppg, 41.7% shooting from the field and only 30.7% shooting from long range on their floor.
The Huskies are also ranked 23rd in the nation in turnovers forced, averaging 16.4 per game…And this has helped the Huskies to a +4.8 margin in points off turnovers this season…In the first game, the Huskies had an 11-to-7 edge in steals over the Golden Flashes…Lastly, N ILL is ranked 2nd in the conference and 71st in the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 67.5 ppg…While Kent St is ranked 5th in the conference and 168th in the nation in scoring defense, allowing 71.7 ppg.
KEY #2:…..The Huskies have more scoring options.
The Huskies have 4 players that average double-digit scoring, led by Marin Maric, who is one of just 2 players in the conference that is averaging double-doubles, with his 13.3 points and 10.0 rebounds per game…This season, the Huskies also had 7 different players scoring double figures in conference play.
The Golden Flashes, meanwhile, have only 3 players averaging in double figures, led by forward Hall who averages a double-double with 18.1 points and 10.6 rebounds per game…For this game though, the Golden Flashes will only have two of their three double figure scorers as guard Walker should be out due to an injury.
The loss of Walker is a big advantage for the Huskies and a big disadvantage for the Golden Flashes offense, as he is Kent St’s 3rd leading scorer averaging 14.9 ppg…Walker is also 4th in rebounding with his 3.4 rpg average and 2nd on the team in assist as well…His absence in this game, again, is huge…How huge?…Well, in the first game, Walker led the Golden Flashes with a team high 22 points, which included going 6-of-10 from long range (career high of 6 threes’)…And, he also had 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals in that first game as well.
Side Note: In the first game, the Huskies only shot 37.3% from the field, 21.4% from long range and just 67.7% from the line, and still won the game in OT by 4 points.
Side Note: In the Huskies last 10 game, they are 8-2 and have made nearly as many FT (160) than their opponents have shot (182)…In addition, their opponents during this span has only averaged 60.4% shooting from the FT line.
Side Note: Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook ranked NIU backcourt as the 3rd best in the MAC…And, Sporting News ranked 6’11’ center Maric as the 5th best player in the MAC.
KEY #3:…….Kent St is poor on the road, N ILL is solid at home.
Currently, the Golden Flashes are just 3-6 in their road games…And they are just 0-2 in conference road games, where they have lost by an average of 11 points per game…In their road games, the Golden Flashes offense has really struggled with their accuracy as they average just 70.6 ppg, 40.1% shooting from the field, 26.2% shooting from long range and just 66.5% from the line.
This is not good stats as they will be facing a solid N ILL team that is 8-3 at home this season, where they are averaging 78.9 ppg, 46.8% shooting from the field, while getting to the line an average of 24 times…Solid!
Side Note: N ILL is 41-9 at home since Feb. 12, 2014…And last season, they were 18-1 at home.
Some other trends working in favor of the Huskies is that the Golden Flashes are 2-11-1 ATS in their last 14 games on the road…while the Huskies are a solid 17-7 ATS in their last 24 games played at home.
Interesting Side Note: KenPom.com ranks the Golden Flashes as the 8th unluckiest team in all of Div 1, ranking 344th out of 351 NCAA Div 1 teams.
Bottom line is although Kent St won its last game, they have still lost 4 of their last 5 games, and this one is on the road where they have struggles a lot…N ILL, on the other hand, has won 4 of its last 5 games and 8 of their last 10…And although their last game was a loss at home, that came against a solid 12-5 Ohio team…And this Kent St is not in the same class as the Bobcats are.
The Huskies already beat the Golden Flashes on their floor, and did so, while having one of their worst shooting nights of the season…Today though; they come in as the hotter team with more scoring options and playing much better on the defensive end, especially at home.
Lastly, with the Huskies possessing a solid board banger in Maric, who already neutralized the Golden Flashes top banger, Hall…along with the Flashes playing this one without their 3rd leading scorer, not to mention on the road as well…there is simply no other way for me to go but with the home team tonight……GO HUSKIES!
Side Note: Kent St is 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games vs MAC opponents.
Side Note: Kent St is 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games vs opponents with a winning record over .600.
Side Note: Kent St is 2-11-1 ATS in their last 14 road games.
Side Note: N ILL 17-7 ATS in their last 24 games at home.
Side Note: N ILL is 3-0-1 ATS in their last 4 games vs Kent State.