Last year was the first year for Northern Illinois Huskies head coach Mark Montgomery.
NIU finished the 2011-12 season with a 5-26 record overall and a 3-13 record in the MAC. After an unexpected win over Miami OH in the middle of MAC play, the Huskies hit a drought but finished the season strong. The Huskies were able to beat Toledo at home and Eastern Michigan on the road to win 2 out of their last four games.
Last year Montgomery inherited a mess left over from the previous regime. With limited recruiting success and some bad seeds on the team, Coach Monty did the best he could to put a competitive team on the court.
After working hard on recruiting and having an offseason with this team, I believe they are ready to turn the corner and be a competitive team in the MAC. This team has talent returning in the form of their top 5 scorers and rebounders from last year, but that isn't saying much of this formally weak offensive team.
Abdel Nader is the star wing averaging 10.4 ppg last season. He was named to the preseason All-MAC team this season. They still have Aksel Bolin who averaged 6.2 ppg. They still have the twin forwards Keith Gray and Kevin Gray. They just need to find a point guard.
Who decided to leave?
- F Tim Toler, SR (14 starts) - Toler actually led the team in ppg last year with 10.8 last year, but was kicked off the team in January for a violation of team rules. He was a 6'7" 258 senior and brought over by the previous coaching staff.
- PG Stian Berg, FR (13 starts) - Berg was a walk-on freshman from Norway that came out of nowhere to claim a spot on the squad. He averaged 3.7 ppg and 1.3 apg and shot 34.2% from three. He transferred after last season.
- PG Marquavese Ford, FR (12 starts) - Ford leaves the program after one year at guard for the Huskies. He averaged 4.5 ppg, 2.0 apg and 1.6 rpg.
- PG Zach Miller, FR (6 starts) - The 5'8" Miller out of Glenbard East injured his knee last season and has since transferred to D-II program Hillsdale (MI). He averaged 2.5 ppg and 1.3 apg. You can read his dramatic transfer story both here and here.
- Other departures from the program include senior F Tyler Storm, a long-time roleplayer for the Huskies who finished his senior year with 3.8 ppg and 2.5 rpg, senior G & former QB DeMarcus Grady and freshman walk-on F Jeremiah Jackson, who decided to transfer.
This team lost a whole bunch of parts and needed some serious replacements, so six freshmen and one walkon were added to this freshman class. The players that will make the most impact are PG Travon Baker (5'10" 155 FR, Signing Release) and PG Daveon Balls (6'0" 165 FR, Signing Release). They will be fighting over the point position all year because everybody from the previous regime flat-out didn't want to compete against them this year. Also you will see F Sam Mader (6'9" 220 FR, Signing Release) get a bunch of time because he is the only eligible player above 6'7".
Other additions include: W Darrell Bowie (6'6" 215 FR, Signing Release), G J.J. Cravatta (6'1" 180 FR Signing Release), G Mike Davis (6'2" 200 FR, Signing Release) and G Akeem Springs (6'3" 208 FR, Signing Release)
A dream season would happen if all the new talent was so well-coached by Monty and everybody gels and gets to Cleveland for the MAC Tourney. We're not going to beat Akron or Ohio in the tourney so getting a chance to play either one of those teams in the finals would be the best possible scenario.
If you want to know what the conference schedule is going to look like in terms of difficulty, check this post out. I looked at the non-conference schedule and put down where kenpom and basketball prospectus ranked the teams.
@ 327/305 Nebraska Omaha
@ 130/106 Valparaiso
NAIA Judson University
259/203 Loyola Chicago
289/272 Illinois Chicago
@ 104/109 Dayton
300/325 SIU Edwardsville
@ 200/201 UW Milwaukee
@ 100/105 Depaul
@ 254/214 Seattle
@ 70/66 Washington
I'm going to be optimistic here and award 6 wins non-conference. 7 MAC wins. 13 wins in total for the 2012-13 Huskies, their best win total since 17 in 2005.
Realistically, I put the range between 10-12, but this team has talent and there is just so much belief behind this coaching staff. It doesn't sound like much, but this year is going to be very similar to last year. A lot of freshmen, but this year there is more talent overall on the squad.