Team: Northern Illinois Huskies
Coach: Mark Montgomery
Record Last year: 15-17, 8-10 MAC
Early 2014-15 record: 4-5
*All rankings/stats are among MAC teams unless otherwise noted:
-- The Huskies tripled their win total last year and began to shake the “easy mark” reputation as they were also very competitive in most of their MAC losses. Among those defeats were a 73-64 overtime loss against Kent State and 61-59 setback against Eastern Michigan. It seemed like the Huskies were nipping at the heels of .500 much of the year.
They’re again right around that mark heading into conference play. As of Sunday, they had lost four of the last five. One was a 58-55 loss at Dartmouth, while the other was a 91-66 thumping from No. 16 Notre Dame in South Bend. There were also double-digit losses at Iowa (70-49) and at DePaul (78-67).
There were two more non-conference games remaining on the schedule before the MAC opener at Ohio Jan. 7. Both are at home.
-- The Huskies rank 10th in scoring (65.5 ppg) and eighth in scoring defense (66.6 ppg). The scoring margin of minus-1.2 ppg ranks 10th among MAC teams.
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-- The boards are typically a big plus for NIU, which is tied for first with Central Michigan in rebounding margin with 8.0 rpg. The next closest is Eastern Michigan at 4.8. Jordan Threloff, a 6-9 center, is third in overall rebound average (8.8 rpg) and first in offensive caroms (39 total, 4.3 orpg).
-- The Huskies are last in turnover margin (minus-2.78) and assist-to-turnover ratio. They have 83 assists and 150 turnovers through 9 games.
-- NIU is third in steals. Sophomore guard Aaric Armstead is sixth with an average of 1.6 per game. Junior guard Travon Baker is tied for 16th.
-- Junior forward Darrell Bowie leads the team in scoring (12.1 ppg) and also has 8.6 rebounds per contest. Aaric Armstead is the only other Huskie in double figures (11.2 ppg, 5.4 rpg), but Threloff is right on the edge with 9.6 ppg (and 8.8 rpg).
-- Aaron Armstead (45.5%) and Bowie (40%) own the top 3-point shot percentages on the roster. Aaric Armstead is at 35.7 percent.
The maturation process of a young squad that Mark Montgomery brought in has shown progress. Aksel Bolin is gone, but the Huskies have also added some pieces. Guard Anthony Johnson, for example spent two years at Purdue (averaging 15.5 and 18.0 minutes per game).
The scoring margin figures right now might be a little off due to some big losses against quality opposition, but conference play will soon set the margin true. Certainly, the Huskies were a treat last year and should likely be considered at least that heading into January.