Miller expansion; likes Huskies

By Mike Morris

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa – With tonight’s 94-71 loss to Northern Iowa at the Uni-Dome, the NIU men’s basketball team holds a 1-5 record against Association of Mid-Continent Universities schools.

An 80-79 last-second victory over Eastern Illinois at Chick Evans Field House Nov. 28 remains the lone Huskie win over AMCU competition. At that point, NIU held a 2-0 overall record. But five-consecutive losses to AMCU schools have helped drop the Huskies to a 4-11 mark.

NIU is among four schools that have expressed interest in joining the AMCU in the future. But the recent decision by the AMCU to hold off on expansion for at least another year has put all speculation on which team might join the conference to rest.

UNI head coach Eldon Miller is not all hesitant to state that NIU would be his choice for a ninth team, although he is a strong proponent of the conference remaining an eight-team unit.

“I was in a 10-team league,” Miller said in reference to his former job as head coach at Ohio State of the Big Ten. “You don’t need 10 teams to have a good league. But if another team comes into this league, it should be Northern Illinois without question. If there is any expansion at all that takes place, Northen Illinois should be the team that comes into this league.”

When asked why he thought NIU would be the school best suited to the AMCU, Miller pointed out geographical location and natural rivalries with Eastern Illinois, Western Illinois and with UNI.

Miller said he feels that playing a Big Ten-type schedule with 18 conference games wouldn’t leave enough room for non-conference matchups and pre-conference tournaments.

“Personally, I would rather see us be unbalanced at nine than go to 10,” Miller said. “I think there are other people who are more opposed to expansion than I am.”

Another AMCU representative, Illinois-Chicago assistant coach Denny Wills, was on hand last night to scout UNI. Wills said he too would like to see NIU join the AMCU if it expands.

“Since we play Northern Illinois anyway, we wouldn’t be opposed to them being in the conference,” Wills said. “As far as their record against AMCU teams, day in and day out, this league is a pretty tough league. I don’t think Northern is overmatched, but it’s very tough to win in this league on the road.”