Today the Montlake Dawgs will be playing a double header with the football team taking on Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl and the basketball team taking on their Husky counterparts from Northern Illinois. The two games may overlap a small portion, which is unfortunate, but hopefully us Washington fans will have double the reason to celebrate. From this point forwards, the Dawgs will refer to Washington and the Huskies will refer to NIU for clarity sake.
The Dawgs should not struggle to beat the Huskies today. Northern Illinois is averaging just over 56 points per game, an average that places them 335th in the nation out of 347 teams. To say the Huskies lack offensive firepower might be a tad of an understatement. The Huskies lack of scoring is mainly due to their poor shooting percentage that is currently sitting at 38%, ranking them 334th in the nation, as well as their poor assist numbers at only 9 per game, 337th in the nation. To be fair, when a team averages only 56 points per game, it is hard to expect great assist numbers as the number of baskets produced per game is far lower and therefore less assist opportunities are presented.
At first glance, one could predict that Northern Illinois has a chance to hang with the Dawgs on the glass as Washington holds a narrow .6 rebound per game average, but a quick glance over the respective rosters tells an all too glaring advantage when it comes to size and strength in the paint where a majority of the dirty work is done. Northern Illinois is not a tall team. Their biggest player, Sam Mader, stands 6-9 220lb and is currently averaging just shy of 7 points per game to go along with a measly 3 rebounds a night. In fact, no player on Illinois’ roster averages more than 5 rebounds a night and the Huskies are clearly a team that rebounds by committee versus having a dominate force such as Aziz N’Diaye or Desmond Simmons. To me, this screams opportunity. Opportunity for the Dawgs to go on a tear and allow a guy like N’Diaye or Simmons to have a ridiculous statistical night with 20+ boards.
What is sad for the Huskies is that their leading scorer has participated in only the last 3 games, but is doing a fair amount of damage averaging 14 points a night. However, in their last outing against Seattle Universirty, Abdel Nader 6-7 225lb, was only able to pick up 5 points on a miserable 2 of 9 shooting performance. Given that he only played 11 minutes, it is hard to expect too spectacular of numbers from Nader, yet after picking up 17 and 20 points in the previous two games where he averaged 25 minutes one has to wonder why the coach did give him more play time.
Outside of Nader, the only other Illinois player in double digits is Akeem Springs, 6-3 208lb. Springs is the go-to guy when it comes to shooting the 3-ball. While Springs is not a particularly good 3-point shooter, averaging only 30% on the year, the fact of the matter remains that he has taken twice as many shots from deep than any other player on the roster. Keeping Springs outside and uncomfortable is a must for the Dawgs. Washington can afford to let a guy like Springs jack a few shots up, but they cannot allow Springs to get in any sort of shooting rhythm.
The leading rebounder for the Huskies is Aksel Bolin, 6-7 220lb, hailing from Asker, Norway. Bolin is picking up just under 5 boards a night with a season high of 9 coming in the second game of the year. Bolin is not a very dangerous player offensively where he is currently dropping in 7 points per game, while struggling at the foul line with 59% average.
The Huskies also feature a set of twins that stand at 6-8 225lbs and somewhat ironically they have averaging nearly identical point production with 3.5 and 3.7 points per game in 17 minutes of playing time.
This should be an easy wrap up for the Dawgs and hopefully an excellent cap to an already fantastic day.