Basketball team tabbed 8th

By Steve Dennis

CHICAGO—New NIU men’s basketball coach Brian Hammel was given a warm welcome at the Mid-Continent Media Luncheon here at the Drake Hotel yesterday.

But his 1991-92 squad wasn’t treated as politely in the preseason polls.

In a conference poll of coaches, athletic directors and sports information directors, NIU received a total of 91 points—good enough for a predicted eighth-place finish out of the nine Mid-Con teams.

To no surprise, the Phoenix from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay check in as the favorites for the second year in a row with 235 points out of a total 243.

Eastern Illinois (209), newcomer to the league Wright State (170), Cleveland State (165), UIC (122) Western Illinois (99), Akron (92) and Valparaiso (32) round out the order of expected finish.

“I leave those polls up to the so-called ‘experts,'” Hammel said after the luncheon. “Polls are basically for the media and general public and more for conversation.

“Heck, look at the Minnesota Twins and the Atlanta Braves.”

Equally as unsurprising, UWGB’s Tony Bennett, last season’s Mid-Con Player of the Year, was a unanimous selection to the preseason All-Conference Team.

That six-player squad did not include any Huskies.

“That would tie hand-in-hand with the eighth-place finish,” Hammel said. “But, I think a lot of guys on our team should have that (All-Conference team) as a goal for themselves.”