Game preview and staff predictions: NIU

Game Predictions
It sounds like a broken record at this point in the season, but the Broncos have just been an inconsistent team all season long. Just when I think they should have a winnable game, they disappoint. And the minute I count them out, they come back and surprise me (i.e. Toledo, Kent State).
It seems that the Broncos have been playing down (and up in some cases) to their competition, and I'm somewhat expecting another case of that happening today on the road in Dekalb. Northern Illinois is a team that can really punish you if you don't come ready to play. In addition to that, I see this being a game the Huskies would really like to have.
A win today against WMU could help catapult them right into the thick of things in the MAC West. I think we're finally beginning to see a slow turn-around in Dekalb, and it could continue in the form of a signature win for the Huskies this afternoon. I'm taking the Huskies in a nail-biter.
Score Prediction: NIU 64, WMU 62
This isn't the Northern Illinois team that we've grown accustomed to over the past couple of seasons, as the Huskies sit at a respectable 4-5 in the MAC and 10-11 overall through half the conference season. That may not sound like much, but the ten wins matches the amount NIU won in head coach Mark Montgomery's first two seasons combined.
It's not a complete shock, as analysts around the conference have talked for some time now about the talent upgrade that Montgomery is bringing into DeKalb. It's a long process, but they're starting to become a bit more feared. What's interesting, though, is that the Huskies don't seem to fare any better at home than they do away. That may be owed to the less than stellar atmosphere that the home crowd brings.
The Huskies do lack a true go-to scoring threat, although in some ways that may be tougher to prepare for as they have five active players averaging between five and ten points per game. Freshman Dontel Highsmith, who hails from Dowagiac, Mich., was leading NIU with 10.5 points per game but has missed all of the 2014 calendar year with injury.
WMU has a decided talent advantage. They've struggled to win road games, but this isn't the type of home-court advantage to really give the Broncos problems. NIU keeps it close, but WMU pulls away in the end.
Score Prediction: Western Michigan 76, Northern Illinois 66
The Western Michigan Broncos should be getting used to these Sunday afternoon games at this point, as this will be their third. The Huskies of Northern Illinois are not having an ideal year, with a sub .500 record and have struggled against conference opponents this season.
I see Shayne Whittington and Conor Tava having a big game this weekend. Their post presence will be too much down low for the Huskies to handle. They bring a one-two punch that allows WMU to dominate the glass at times as well as be very active and athletic defensively. Those two down low, mixed with the plethora of shooters WMU has, will overwhelm the Huskies.
This could be a very close game, but I think that WMU has too much talent to lose this game. The Huskies will keep it close but the Broncos will prevail.
Score Prediction: WMU 60, NIU 56
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