Hoops Named Favorite To Win MAC Western Division, MAC Tournament
OH -- Three seasons ago Northern Illinois head coach Rob Judson
inherited a program that won just five games the year before his
arrival in DeKalb, IL. Thursday (Oct. 23) at the Mid-American Conference
Media Day in Cleveland, OH, the Huskies were picked to win both
the MAC Western Division title and the MAC Tournament title by the
just the preseason and we know that doesnt mean a whole lot,
Judson said. Weve got a lot to prove this season. There
is so much parity in this Conference right now, anyone can win.
Its great for the Mid-American Conference as a whole to have
so many capable teams, but whomever comes through as the champion,
will have definitely earned it.
Led by first
team All-MAC Western Division selections Marcus Smallwood and P.J.
Smith, the Huskies received 28 of the possible 48 first-place votes
to win the MAC Western Division crown. Bowling Green, led by All-MAC
West pick Kevin Netter, was picked second with 13 first-place votes.
Miami (Ohio) was chosen as the MAC Eastern Division favorite.
While NIU will
be searching for its first Mid-American Conference title since the
1980-81 season, the Huskies did bring home the Mid-Continent Conference
hardware under the direction of head coach Jim Molinari during the
1990-91 campaign. Judson was an assistant under Molinari during
that championship season.
Last year NIU
turned in its best conference mark (11-7) since rejoining the MAC
in 1997-98. Led by first team All-MAC pick Marcus Smallwood and
MAC All-Tournament selection P.J. Smith, the Huskies finished second
in the MAC West to Central Michigan and advanced to the Mid-American
Conference Tournament semifinals at the Gund Arena in Cleveland,
One of just
two sets of teammates to make the preseason All-MAC team, Derrick
Tarver and Jon Hollingsworth of Akron were named to the MAC-Eastern
Division squad, Smallwood and Smith are coming off spectacular seasons
in which they led the Huskies to a 17-14 overall record.
A First Team
All-MAC honoree as a junior, Smallwood averaged 13.3 points and
10.1 rebounds a game. One of just 20 players nationally to average
a double-double, Smallwood enters 2003-04 as the sixth highest returning
rebounder nationally. He will also enter the season as the MACs
top returner in total rebounds per game (10.1), offensive rebounds
a game (4.13), field-goal percentage (.548) and blocked shots (1.35).
In sharing Northern Illinois MVP honors with P.J. Smith, the Elgin,
IL, native became the first NIU player to average a double-double
for a season since T.J. Lux during the 1997-98 season. Smallwood
will also look to become the first Huskie to win MAC Conference
Player of the Year honors since Paul Dawkins during the 1978-79
after earning honorable mention All-MAC and MAC All-Tournament honors
a year ago. The Huskies top scorer in 2002-03, Smith averaged
14.7 points a contest and proved to be one of the Conferences
most capable scorers. In addition to his 33-point outburst vs. Western
Michigan (3-13-03) in the MAC quarterfinals, the Maywood, IL, native
poured in 35 points in a road contest vs. South Florida (12-17-02)
and narrowly missed his third 30-point game of the season with 29
points at Ball State (1-11-03). The teams top free throw shooter
(.766) last season, Smith ranked 12th conference-wide at the charity
stripe in addition to being ranked eighth in steals a game (1.65)
and 10th in three-point makes (59).
Illinois mens and womens basketball programs will hold
their annual media day on Wednesday, Nov. 5 at the Convocation Center.
For media members wishing to attend, please contact the Northern
Illinois Sports Information Office at (815) 753-1706.
Copy by David Reiter
MAC WEST Voting (First-Place Votes)
1. Northern Illinois (28) 309
2. Bowling Green (13) 245
3. Western Michigan (4) 226
4. Ball State (1) 192
5. Toledo (1) 130
6. Central Michigan (1) 128
7. Eastern Michigan 114
MAC East Voting (First-Place Votes)
1. Miami (Ohio) (21) 247
2. Akron (17) 240
3. Kent State (9) 200
4. Marshall 125
5. Ohio 103
6. Buffalo (1) 72
Champion Team Votes
Northern Illinois 16
Miami (Ohio) 10
Bowling Green 7
Ball State 4
Western Michigan 3
Kent State 2