After an entire week away from competitive hoops for final exams, the Dayton Flyers will be back in action in a big way on Saturday. A semi-away game looms against Northwestern in Chicago at the United Center, where fans in purple will likely be the majority (that said, Flyer fans do travel extremely well). Dayton will be playing in the State Farm Chicago Legends, a double-header that also features BYU and Illinois. The first contest between the Flyers and the Wildcats should be one for the ages, as both teams enter pretty evenly matched.
Northwestern (8-2) has gotten off to a pretty good start to the season with impressive wins over Texas and Wake Forest. The Wildcats’ only two losses were by narrow margins to two teams that are looking to be very good this season: Butler and Notre Dame. Vic Law and Scottie Lindsey both average more than 15 points and 4 rebounds per game. Bryant McIntosh adds 12 points per contest and leads the team in assists per game at 5.1
This team is very good shooting the basketball; the Wildcats shoot 38.8% from downtown and have the 78th best effective field goal percentage in the nation according to Kenpom. They also have the 32nd best defensive effective field goal percentage in the nation. Northwestern also knocks down 77.3% of its free throw attempts and can really make you pay if you commit too many fouls. The Wildcats have looked very good this season but did have a near slip up, recently beating one of the worst teams in the nation in Chicago State by just 4.
Dayton (7-2) has been on a 5 game winning streak since dropping a first round game to Nebraska in the Wooden Legacy. The Flyers’ best win this season was on the road against Alabama, and they recently beat East Tennessee State. With Kendall Pollard back in the lineup, this team looks ready for a battle in Chicago, and this would be a great way for the Flyers to start building an NCAA Tournament resume.
The key for both teams is going to be defense. The Flyers and the Wildcats shoot the basketball at an effective rate and tend to get quality looks from all over the floor. Dayton’s key for taking down Northwestern will start with defending Vic Law and Scottie Lindsey on the perimeter; the two knock shots down from the outside with consistency, and the Wildcats can fill it up in a hurry if you’re not careful. Vic Law has made 24 of 48 three pointers this season, so watch out for his range. Bryant McIntosh has not been shooting the ball very well this season; Scoochie Smith could take advantage of this matchup at point guard. The Wildcats will likely have a tough time defending Charles Cooke, so Dayton should ride its star throughout.
Lucky for the Flyers, Northwestern has the same effective height according to Kenpom, so they shouldn’t get punished for their lack of size down low. This one’s likely to be a shootout between two teams that have looked rather good recently, and the team that finds a way to contest outside shots and bother the opposition on the defensive end of the floor will come out with a big win in Chicago.
Prediction: Northwestern has looked really solid this season despite barely beating Chicago State the other day, and with what should be a dominantly Northwestern crowd, the Wildcats are likely going to have the advantage. That said, Dayton’s more than capable of pulling this one out, and after a rough and unlucky start to the season, this team looks like it’s getting ahold of things. Dayton 78, Northwestern 74