Men’s basketball schedule released

By Michael Urbanec

The NIU men’s basketball team’s schedule has been released, featuring marquis matchups against the usual MAC opponents and a late December visit to the Michigan State Spartans.

The Huskies will open the season on Nov. 6 against Rockford before playing a home-and-home against the Horizon League champions, the Northern Kentucky University Norse.

“We have a challenging 2018-19 schedule with numerous conference champions, it will definitely get us ready for MAC play,” said NIU head coach Mark Montgomery in an Aug. 1 press release. “We are playing in a great tournament at Oakland University, we have a return game to Green Bay and a couple of in-state rivals which is always nice. When you play a Big East school (Butler) and the Big Ten Champions, Michigan State, those are big and I know that Michigan State game will be special.”

Montgomery played his college ball at Michigan State from 1988-92, and was an assistant coach there from 2001-2011.

The Huskies will also take part in the Men Against Breast Cancer Oakland Hoops Challenge from Nov. 23-25, taking on Oral Roberts, James Madison, and host Oakland in a finale.

Mid-American Conference play will start on Jan. 5 with a road game against University of Ohio before travelling to Miami (Ohio) University. NIU opens their home conference schedule against Akron Jan. 12.

“The MAC schedule speaks for itself,” said Montgomery. “The interesting thing this year is that everyone has a bye, ours is February 19, and after that we will be in the home stretch. It is an exciting schedule, we are looking forward to an exciting season and we are going to challenge ourselves.”

NIU’s MAC west schedule is lumped together at the season’s end, with nine of the last ten games being against divisional opponents.

Last season was a disappointment, a 6-12 conference record and 13-19 overall record, leading the Huskies to an early postseason exit. Home cooking was good for them with an 11-4 record at the Convocation Center, and they have a solid group of players returning to the squad.

After a brief exit from team to test his mettle at the NBA Draft Combine, junior guard Eugene German will return to DeKalb and attempt to continue the trend of leading the MAC in scoring.

“I got a little bit of feedback; I need to work on my midrange a little more,” German said in a June 20 Northern Star article. “I have to get better at noticing switches and things like that. I have to learn how to guard bigs and understand switches.”

Development of the team’s younger players could lead to much improvement in coming years, especially for a squad fielding only five seniors. The NIU basketball youth movement may help the program return to its former glory.