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Northern Illinois Game Preview & How to Watch

Washington kicks off the regular season tonight against another Huskies squad

NCAA Basketball: Northern Illinois at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

How to Watch (and bet)

Date: Tuesday, 11/9/21

Tip-Off Time: 7:00 pm PT

TV: Pac-12 Washington


Radio: KJR 1090 AM/KVI 570 (Kraken game which starts at the same time will be on the normal 950)

Location: Seattle, Washington

DraftKings Betting Line: Washington Huskies -18

Northern Illinois 2020-21 Statistics:

Record: 3-16 (2-12)

Points For per Game: 62.3 ppg (332nd)

Points Against per Game: 77.4 ppg (311th)

Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 93.3 (312th)

Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 111.2 (328th)

Strength of Schedule: 152nd

Northern Illinois Huskies Key Players (all stats from last year):

G- Kaleb Thornton, Jr. 6’0, 175: 5.4 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 2.9 apg, 39.8% FG, 30.8% 3pt, 61.9% FT

The Huskies get back their starting point guard in Thornton who had some serious troubles in his first season in D1 after transferring from Iowa Western CC. He only had 4 more assists than turnovers and committed multiple turnovers in all but 1 game last year. He’s also a lead guard who isn’t a great shooter. Put it all together and he’s fine for one of the worst teams in the MAC but shouldn’t be a major worry for UW.

G- Trendon Hankerson, Sr. 6’2, 185: 13.9 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 2.2 apg, 39.6% FG, 36.9% 3pt, 69.2% FT

Northern Illinois lost its leading scorer from last year, Tyler Cochran, but Hankerson was #2 in that regard. He was one of only 2 Huskies to shoot better than 31% from the 3-point line and so he’ll be heavily relied upon to stretch the floor against UW’s zone. In a season finale win over Central Michigan last year he had 27 points and 8 rebounds and will be hoping to keep it going heading into this season.

G- Anthony Crump, Sr. 6’8, 210: 4.4 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 0.9 apg, 34.4% FG, 31.3% 3pt, 34.8% FT

Crump is oddly listed as a guard on the NIU roster despite standing 6’8 and not being able to shoot well or pass well. When you’re shooting below 35% both from the field and from the free throw line then you know you’re not on the court for your offense. Last season was his first at NIU after transferring from Middle Tennessee and there’s not really much in his statistical profile to explain why he played in 50% of NIU’s minutes last year.

F- Zool Kueth, Sr. 6’7, 210: 6.7 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 0.8 bpg, 45.1 FG%, 37.3% 3pt, 70.0% FT

In addition to having an awesome name, Zool is also a really solid stretch 4 option. He led the team in offensive rating as a 3-point sniper who didn’t do a lot of dribbling and thus didn’t turn the ball over much. He seems like the type of player who could give UW problems on both ends and easily end up with a 15 and 7 type stat line with several made 3’s.

C- Chinedu Kingsley Okanu, Sr. 6’7, 225: 4.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 0.8 bpg, 40.2% FG, 66.7% FT

Okanu actually played a lot of center for NIU at 6’7 and finished 3rd in the MAC in block rate so he’s a serious athlete. The biggest issue for Okanu is unsurprisingly he also fouls a ton which keeps his minutes low. He also was a fantastic offensive rebounder and could really give UW’s zone problems if he’s able to avoid box outs with his length and leaping ability.

(For those of you looking for the shot chart for Northern Illinois from last year, Synergy Sports is no longer making that feature available. Join the chorus and complain to them about it.)

The Outlook

Basketball season is finally here!

And very badly needed. Let’s be real here for a moment. This game is not about Northern Illinois. The Huskies (NIU version) finished last year ranked 337th at KenPom out of 357 teams that played. They return 4 starters from that team so there’s certainly a chance that they take a leap up and wind up as maybe the 300th or even (go crazy) the 250th best team in the country. As bad as Washington was last year they beat the only sub-200 team they played by 30+ points.

This game is all about Washington and getting this team rolling with a little confidence. Last season the Huskies entered the year after a disrupted practice schedule due to COVID-19 and promptly played the eventual national champions with 2 days notice. Would things have been different if they’d gotten to start with a few buy games instead? Maybe, maybe not. But Hop clearly wants to ease his players into things this season for a change. After Northern Illinois, Washington get another Northern in Arizona who is similarly ranked worse than 300th with both games at home. Expect UW to keep their foot on the gas to build some team confidence and chemistry during this stretch.

Looking back at Northern Illinois’s stats from last year there are a few things to note. While they finished below average in almost every team stat, they were 39th overall in offensive rebounding rate. Traditionally this has always been a weakness of the Washington/Syracuse zone defense and so we could see another frustrating night of NIU doing well on the boards and gaining extra possessions. Last year though they were 341st in 2-pt FG% so even if they get extra looks at the basket there’s a good shot that not very many of them are going to actually fall. Washington’s interior defense certainly looked fierce in their exhibition win over Central Washington last week.

Teams last season shot a ridiculous 39% from 3-pt range against Northern Illinois which was 339th in the country. Shooting doesn’t appear to be the strong suit of this Husky roster but if they’re left absolutely wide open then almost everyone on the roster is capable of knocking down a shot. Expect the Dawgs to look a little bit better from beyond the arc tonight than they do the rest of the year.


Washington Huskies- 80, Northern Illinois Huskies- 56