Schedule Breakdown – Game 2 NIU

PantherU is taking every weekday to break down a different opponent of the Milwaukee Panthers.  We’re going in chronological order.  Up next, Northern Illinois.

Opponent #2: Northern Illinois Huskies, November 14th, Dekalb, Illinois

If there’s any mid-major conference that is struggling to maintain that standing, it’s the MAC’s Western Division.  While the Eastern side of the court puts a lot of great teams out there, the West is littered with also-rans and struggling teams.  Take NIU for example.  The Huskies’ top story on their website is that they will be holding tryouts on September 21st. The Huskies went 9-21 last season, mainly on the shoulders of Xavier Silas.  Silas used the season as a showcase for his basketball skills, scoring 22.3 ppg and parlaying that scoring acumen into a professional career in France.  After him and the rest of their departing crew, however, the Huskies only have five returning players.  That’s right, five.  They aren’t without value, either.  Senior forward Tim Toler was the second-leading scorer last season, just shy of double figures.  Antone Christian scored 6.2 ppg and Tony Nixon had 5.1 ppg.

The Huskies made the Panthers schedule likely for several reasons – first and foremost, it’s an easy road game for Panther fans to attend, as really only Chicago affords closer opponents.  The Panthers get a winnable road game against a MAC opponent, and it’ll be good for them to get their feet wet heading into the meat of their non-conference schedule.

– Key player: Tim Toler. The senior big man is a really big man.  Toler stands 6’7”, decent height for a mid-major post, but weighs in at 275 lb.  Though Toler may look harmless – to me he looks like a young Donald Faison hanging on to his baby fat for dear life – he is a strong basketball player.  He scored on 45.9% of shots last season and averaged 5.5 rebounds as a junior.

– New faces on the bench. And I’m not talking about the ten walk-ons they’ll be playing this winter.  Mark Montgomery left a possible head-coach-in-waiting gig at Michigan State under Tom Izzo to take over at Northern Illinois, and he wasted no time in clearing out the roster and setting his new staff.

– They’ll get winded.  Because this is a transition period, the Huskies will only suit up five scholarship players – or at least that’s what the roster says – so expect the Panthers to cruise out with their deep roster and run the Huskies into the ground.  Walk-ons will play a major role for the Huskies this season, and most of those are likely going to join the team after they try-out on Wednesday.

– Prediction. It won’t be Mark Montgomery’s fault that the Huskies will be bad – potentially historically bad for their program – so don’t lay the loss on him.  Milwaukee should coast, and it could be an easier game for them than the SWMSU game just a couple days earlier.

Prediction: Milwaukee 78, Northern Illinois 63

Up next is IUPUI on Wednesday.

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