Oct. 28, 2009
Preseason Mid-American Conference poll
DEKALB, Ill. - One year after being picked to finish sixth in the Mid-American Conference West Division, the Northern Illinois men's basketball team was slotted second in the 2009-10 preseason media poll, as announced by the conference office Wednesday morning. In addition, junior guard Darion "Jake" Anderson was named to the preseason West Division All-MAC team for the second-consecutive season.
The Huskies are coming off last season's 10-20 (5-11 MAC) campaign - NIU finished tied for fifth in the MAC-West standings, and was edged (64-61) by sixth-seeded Kent State in the opening round of the FirstEnergy MAC Tournament at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.
NIU returns 13 letterwinners, including four starters, from the 2008-09 squad. Key newcomers include Colorado transfer Xavier Silas, who averaged double figures in scoring during two seasons playing in the Big XII; freshmen Tony Nixon (South Holland, Ill./Seton Academy) and point guard Keith Smith (Chicago, Ill./St. Ignatius), who medically redshirted last season.
"I think us being picked second in our division speaks to the respect that people have for the young talent we have assembled on this team," said NIU head coach Ricardo Patton. "Last year, we had a team with mostly freshmen and sophomores that were forced to play a lot of minutes. This year, they are much more familiar with what it takes to compete, and those experiences from last season should bode well.
"I'm excited about the group we have returning, and also about the additions to our team, with guys like Xavier Silas, Tony Nixon and Keith Smith coming on board."
NIU, which collected 102 points in the poll, trailed preseason MAC-West favorite Central Michigan (113 points). Eastern Michigan (94) was tabbed third, 2009 MAC-West champion Ball State (87) was picked fourth, while fifth-place Western Michigan (79) and Toledo (29) rounded out the prognostications.
The Huskies also collected four first-place votes in the West, and one vote to capture the MAC Tournament championship and garner the league's automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament. Akron was picked to win the East Division title, followed by second-place Kent State, Buffalo, who was picked third, fourth-place Miami (Ohio) University, Bowling Green and Ohio.
Anderson was named the 2008 MAC Freshman of the Year, and was tabbed second-team all-conference last season after leading the Huskies in scoring (16.9 ppg) for the second-straight campaign.
"I think the coaches and media that follow this league have a great deal of respect for what `Jake' has accomplished over the last two seasons," Patton said. "He'll continue to progress in our program, and I expect him to have a solid junior campaign."
Anderson also paced NIU in rebounding (5.4 rpg) last season, and collected MAC-West Player of the Week honors four times. He ranked in the individual top-10 in the MAC in five categories (scoring, steals per game, three-point field goal percentage, three-point field goals per game and defensive rebounds).
NIU will open the 2009-10 season on the road Nov. 13 at Northwestern, before taking on host Illinois on Nov. 17. The Huskies' home opener is set for Nov. 20 (7 p.m.) versus Tennessee State.
Single-game and season tickets for both NIU men's and women's basketball can be purchased in the NIU Athletic Ticket Office, at 815-752-6800, or on NIUHuskies.com.