Time and Date: Saturday, December 8 @ 4:30 p.m. ET
Location: Hinkle Fieldhouse (Indianapolis)
Records: Butler (6-2) | Northern Illinois (5-3)
Rankings: Butler (#28 KenPom) | Northern Illinois (#149 KenPom)
TV Channel: FS1
Stream: Fox Sports GO
After defeating Brown on Wednesday, Butler welcomes Northern Illinois to Hinkle Fieldhouse, looking to gain momentum going into next week’s Crossroads Classic matchup against Indiana. NIU has looked better than anticipated so far this season, and is coming off a 71-62 victory over UC Davis.
LaVall Jordan will likely be watching his offense closely as this will be something of a tuneup for the Indiana game. Butler’s defense has really settled in and should continue to be tough; but it appears that the success of Butler’s season will hinge on offensive improvement. Can the Bulldogs find more consistency on that end of the floor?
NIU hopes to frustrate Butler as it did UC Davis on Wednesday. The Huskies were picked to finish second to last in the MAC this year by coaches and media. They were the only team in the West Division that did not receive a vote to win the division. Nevertheless, they have looked a little more formidable than expected at 5-3.
The Huskies have scored very efficiently this year. Their top five scorers all shoot above 50% and they shoot 51.9% as a team. They are led by Eugene German and Levi Bradley — two upperclassmen who combine for just under 40 points a game.
Butler’s priority will likely be containing the versatile German while generating enough offense to keep NIU at bay.
KEYS TO THE GAME
Butler: Easy buckets
Butler’s offense has really been an issue so far this season. The Bulldogs are rarely getting anything easy. This will be their last game without Jordan Tucker and hopefully he can help. For now, Butler needs to see how many easy buckets it can generate through transition offense and passing. If Butler gets caught in a half-court grind again on Saturday, the Huskies may have the firepower to make a game of it.
Northern Illinois: Score
Seems strange that scoring would be the key to a basketball game, but it may be important for NIU on Saturday. As mentioned above, NIU has been scoring efficiently this season. Butler has locked down opponents in recent weeks, but has also struggled to produce offensively. The way Butler has looked, if NIU can score 75 points, that may be enough to win. The Huskies need to do everything in their power to get something on as many offensive possessions as possible.