NIU Men's Basketball Finalizes 2009-2010 Schedule
Aug. 19, 2009
DEKALB, Ill. - Northern Illinois head men's basketball coach Ricardo Patton unveiled the Huskies' complete 2009-2010 schedule Wednesday, a challenging slate that includes NIU's first-ever contest against Illinois, along with four other games versus 2009 NCAA Tournament participants. The schedule includes 14 games to be played at the Convocation Center, and three Big Ten Conference foes for the first time in program history.
Including the five NCAA Tournament teams, the Huskies will play a total of 10 games versus opponents that appeared in the postseason last spring. Four of those contests will come against Mid-American Conference East Division foes (Akron, Bowling Green, Buffalo and Kent State) when the league slate kicks off in January.
"We've got a very challenging schedule, and there are some inherent benefits to that, especially because it will directly prepare us for Mid-American Conference play," said Patton. "By the time January rolls around, we will have played in some very hostile environments, and against every conceivable offensive and defensive system that we will see in MAC play."
For the third-consecutive campaign, the Huskies will open the season away from home, visiting in-state foe Northwestern at Welsh-Ryan Arena on Friday, Nov. 13. Four days later (Nov. 17), NIU will take on host Illinois in Champaign for the first time in school history.
Northwestern went 17-14 (8-10 Big Ten) last season, and earned a berth in the National Invitational Tournament (NIT). The Fighting Illini finished the 2008-09 campaign with a 24-10 (11-7 Big Ten) record and earned a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Huskies and Wildcats haven't played since Dec. 1, 1986.
"When we arrived here (at NIU), we reached out to every other Division I school in the state of Illinois in an effort to get them on the schedule," Patton said. "We've received a very good response to that, and we'll continue that effort in future seasons. The opportunity to play Northwestern and Illinois early in the season will be exciting for our players and a chance for our staff to gauge where our team needs to improve as we progress through the non-conference season."
Prior to Thanksgiving, the Huskies will host Tennessee State (Nov. 20) and Southeast Missouri State (Nov. 22) in a pair of ESPNU BracketBusters return games. On Nov. 28, the Huskies will travel to the Windy City to take on host Chicago State at the Patricia A. Jones Convocation Center.
The Huskies will then return home to host Missouri Valley Conference foe Bradley at the Convocation Center Dec. 2. BU advanced to the championship series of the inaugural CollegeInsider.com postseason tournament last March.
"Bradley is very well thought of in this state, and nationally as well," Patton said. "It's the beginning of a non-conference series that we hope to continue for a long time. We'll also be resuming our series against both Southern Illinois and Loyola (Chicago) next season."
NIU will play its second-consecutive MVC foe on Dec. 5, when NIU kicks off a three-game road trip by traveling to Cedar Falls, Iowa, to face 2009 Valley regular season and tournament champion Northern Iowa at the McLeod Center. NIU and UNI will be playing for the second time in the Ricardo Patton era.
After a nine-day break the Huskies will travel to Minneapolis to take on host Minnesota at Williams Arena on Dec. 15. The contest will mark the first meeting between NIU and the Golden Gophers since the 1990-91 campaign. The Golden Gophers earned the No. 10 in the East Region of the NCAA Tournament last season.
The Huskies will end their road trip by renewing their rivalry with host Illinois-Chicago on Dec. 19 at the UIC Pavilion. NIU and the Flames last met on Dec. 5, 2006 in DeKalb.
"We're hoping to start a great local rivalry with UIC," Patton said. "Jimmy Collins has done an excellent job with that program; they had some very impressive non-conference wins last season. It will be a very challenging game for us on the road, and we're excited about that series continuing in future seasons."
NIU's ensuing three-game homestand will begin with a Dec. 22 contest versus Maryland-Eastern Shore. In the final contest prior to the New Year, the Huskies will host Temple at the Convocation Center on Dec. 30. The Owls have captured the Atlantic-10 Conference Tournament championship in each of the past two seasons.
"There isn't a college basketball fan across the country that isn't familiar with what Temple has accomplished in the last 20 years or so," said Patton. "It's huge exposure for our program, and we're thrilled to have them visit the Convocation Center in late December."
Northern Illinois' 16-game Mid-American Conference schedule will feature home contests versus Ohio (Jan. 27), Buffalo (Jan. 30), Miami University (Feb. 6) and the other four teams in the MAC West (Ball State, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan and Toledo). The Huskies will hit the road for cross-divisional contests against Kent State (Feb. 1), 2009 MAC Champion Akron (Feb. 3) and Bowling Green (Feb. 10). For the third-consecutive season, NIU will play a road game in the ESPNU BracketBusters series, which is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 20, 2010.
BGSU played in the NIT last season, while Buffalo was selected for the College Basketball Invitational (CBI). Kent State was defeated in the opening round of the CollegeInsider.com tournament.
"The thing I like most about our MAC schedule is that we finish the season at home, and two of our last three conference games are at the Convocation Center," said Patton. "We've got some challenging cross-divisional games that will take place on the road, but that's part of a league race. We are going to need to take our show on the road this season, and also continue to play well at home (in conference play)."
NIU's home exhibition dates are set for Nov. 1 against Aurora at 2 p.m., and Nov. 6 versus Marygrove, beginning at 4 p.m., at the Convocation Center.
Ticket information for the 2009-10 campaign, as well as game times, will be released at a later date. Northern Illinois' 10 wins last season were a four-victory improvement from the 2007-08 campaign, and its five MAC wins were a two-victory improvement. The Huskies return 13 letterwinners from the 2008-09 squad, including 88 percent of their scoring, and 79 percent of their rebounding totals.
NIU also welcomes three newcomers to the mix, including Colorado transfer Xavier Silas, who averaged 12.0 points per game for the Buffaloes as a freshman (2006-07), and 9.7 points per contest as a sophomore (2007-08).
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