Northwestern (8-4) will play its third opponent from the state of Illinois in four games when it hosts the Division II Lewis University Flyers (4-6) tonight at Allstate Arena.
Members of the Great Lakes Valley Conference, the Flyers hail from Romeoville, Ill. The Wildcats have faced Lewis once in the Chris Collins era, a Nov. 6, 2013 exhibition matchup that saw Northwestern prevail 57-46.
Scott Trost is in the 12th year of a solid stint as the head coach of the Flyers, posting a winning record each year and earning four NCAA Tournament berths in the process. Most recently, the Flyers won the Great Lakes Valley Championship in 2016 paced by Division II All-American Max Strus, who lit up Northwestern for 33 points on Saturday in a DePaul Blue Demons uniform. The Flyers have gotten off to a slower start this season, but the success of Strus at Lewis illustrates that the basketball program has been able to attract some Division I-caliber talent.
It’s hard to get a gauge of how Lewis stacks up against Division I programs because it looks like the Flyers stopped scheduling them around 2011. Without any data on the Flyers, KenPom sees this game as simply a “W” for Northwestern — no score prediction or available statistics for Lewis. The Flyers seem to struggle with scoring, sitting at 12th in their 15-team conference in points per game. Only two players, Delaney Blaylock and Cristen Wilson, score more than 10 points per game.
Gleaning what I could from the Lewis University website and grainy YouTube mixes, Blaylock looks like an athletic combo guard with a solid three-point shot (40.5 percent). Nonetheless, he has an inverted 17:25 assist to turnover ratio and will probably draw an unfortunate matchup with Vic Law or Anthony Gaines. Wilson, a senior, is the team’s leading rebounder and more of a face-up big, but he’s undersized at 6-foot-5.
Northwestern is going to have an advantage in terms of skill, athleticism, and experience when Lewis arrives at Allstate Arena. Expect big evenings from Dererk Pardon and Gavin Skelly on the offensive boards. Ideally, the Wildcats jump out to an early double-digit lead and are able to give the starters some much needed rest before a huge trip to Oklahoma at the end of the week. Also worth mentioning: it’s a bit of a personal game for Jordan Ash, as Lewis assistant coach Marlon London was a coach for Ash’s state-champion high school team. Look for the junior to try to assert himself in front of his former coach.
Game Time: 7 p.m. CT
TV: BTN Plus on BTN2Go
Radio: 720 WGN
Streaming: BTN Plus via BTN2Go
KenPom prediction: “W”
Betting line: N/A