The floors are waxed and the lineups are set.
College basketball season has arrived, and new head coach Mark Montgomery and NIU will tip-off the year against Purdue in L-afayette, Ind., Friday night.
This could be a difficult matchup for a young Huskies' squad, as they will go up against the Boilermakers, who are considered a perennial Big Ten contender. Purdue is coming off a season in which it went 26-8 and finished its season ranked 13th in the country.
Freshman forward Abdel Nader said NIU has a positive outlook.
"We go into every game trying to win; the whole team has that mindset," Nader said. "Because of our youth, we try to use everything as a learning experience. But at the same time, we're trying to win."
Huskies sophomore guard Antone Christian said the team will have to contain its enthusiasm while playing against Purdue.
"Everyone is excited," Christian said. "We're just not trying to get too excited to the point where we forget our press rules and everything we've learned over the course of the summer and fall as far as our defensive and offensive goals go."
Purdue lost its leading scorers in JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore to the NBA. But Montgomery, who coached against Purdue for 10 years at Michigan State, said the Huskies will still play their game.
"Anytime you play a Purdue team, it's a dogfight," Montgomery said. "You have to take care of the ball because they want to get out and score on turnovers, and you have to compete. The hustle plays will definitely be a key factor and rebounding will be important. You have to limit them to one shot."
This game will feature Boilermakers forward Robbie Hummel, who is coming back after his second major knee surgery. Before his injuries, Hummel was a very talented forward who Montgomery said will be a key player to stop.
"He's going to be a factor in every game," Montgomery said. "He's a space and floor man that can shoot. He has experience. We have to contest shots and keep him off the glass."
Win or lose, NIU will look to improve its play after losing to Carthage 74-70 in its lone exhibition game last weekend.
"We have to come out more hungry and continue to be aggressive," Montgomery said. "[We need] to get to the foul line more and take the ball in stronger. When we get offensive rebounds, we have to convert those. But overall, we just have to be stronger with the ball, and it doesn't matter if it's on the perimeter or in the paint; we have to squeeze the basketball."
Montgomery said the Huskies aren't going to play soft.
"We're definitely going to compete and be competitive for forty minutes," Montgomery said.