Northwestern (8-2) meets Dayton (7-2) in the first game of an exciting night at the United Center as part of the State Farm Chicago Legends. Illinois meets BYU in the second matchup of the night.
The Wildcats survived a heart-stopping game versus lowly Chicago State to keep their resume clean of what would be considered any "bad losses." But the team has also allowed opportunities to pick up quality wins through their hands against both Butler and Notre Dame. While Chris Collins and co. do have wins over Texas and Wake Forest, this game represents Northwestern’s final chance for a quality win before the conference slate begins.
It certainly won’t be easy, though. Archie Miller’s Flyers have made the NCAA Tournament three seasons in a row, including a run to the Elite Eight in 2014. This year’s version is yet to pick up a big win, having lost to both Saint Mary’s and Nebraska. Per Kenpom, the Flyers’ best win over No. 79 Alabama.
Still, the Flyers have plenty of talent. Charles Cooke, who transferred from James Madison two years ago, leads the way offensively at 20.0 points per game. He’s shooting over 39 percent from three and over 49 percent from the field overall. He also adds 5.7 rebounds per contest, second-best on the team. The 6-foot-5, 196-pound guard will be a tough matchup for any one of Northwestern’s talented wings, though there’s a good shot Sanjay Lumpkin gets the first opportunity to defend him.
Averaging 14 points per game, second on the team, is point guard Scoochie Smith. Beside having one of the better names in college basketball, Smith is experienced, having played a key part in the 2014 Elite Eight run. He’s shooting over 50 percent from the field and 40 percent from three. Down the stretch, he’s the guy for the Flyers.
Kendall Pollard’s return from injury has been a big boost for the Flyers. After missing the first six games, Pollard has averaged 12.7 points per game and a team-best 6.7 rebounds per game in his three games. Josh Cunningham, who averaged 12.5 points per game in the first two contests, is out for several months after an ankle injury, but Kyle Davis (8.3 points per game), Sam Miller (7.9), Xeyrius Williams (7.1) and Ryan Mikesell (6.2) all chip in.
The 39th-ranked team by Kenpom, Dayton forces a decent amount of turnovers and shoots the ball well inside the arc (55 percent, 37th in the nation). But they don’t rebound particularly well nor shoot well from the free throw line.
This is a massive opportunity for Northwestern, and the team will have to continue to shoot it well from deep — a factor that let the Wildcats hang around with both Butler and Notre Dame and nearly cost them against Wake Forest and Chicago State. Dayton isn’t particularly big, but neither was Chicago State, so Northwestern has to do a better job on the boards.
Game time: 6 p.m. CT
TV channel: BTN
Online streaming: BTN2go
Radio: ESPN 1000
Betting line: Dayton -1