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Behind Enemy Lines: Northern Illinois

The Northwestern basketball season tips off tomorrow night against Northern Illinois, and since I know next to nothing about Northern Illinois basketball, I reached out to Mike Breese from the NIU SB Nation blog Red and Black Attack. Mike was kind enough to take a break from celebrating NIU football's big win over Toledo Tuesday night (and let me tell you, I saw parts of that game and it's a good thing the Northwestern football team isn't playing NIU, because we'd probably lose) and answer my questions about their basketball team.

What kind of tradition does Northern Illinois have in basketball? Have you at least managed to do what Northwestern has not and made the NCAA tournament?

Mike Breese: NIU has made the NCAA tournament in 1982, 1991 and 1996.  Ever since then, the brand of NIU basketball has been really, really bad.  From 2001-07, Rob Judson ran this once decent program into the ground.  Ricardo Patton is only putting more dirt on top of the rotting corpse of the NIU basketball program.

Coach Ricardo Patton certainly hasn't had much success at NIU, going 26-62 in 3 years at the school. Is he on the hot seat, and if so, what will he need to do to save his job?

MB: Patton is most definitely on the hot seat.  He finally has a roster entirely full of players that he alone has recruited this year (and forced everybody else to transfer out), so it should be interesting to watch.  Another disaster season and he is gone.  We'll need to be competitive in the MAC tournament for him to keep his job.

What does NIU's roster look like for this year? Any returning stars or potential breakout players?

MB: Xavier Silas is the hands-down star of this team.  He came to NIU from Colorado when Patton did.  He is good offensively (19.7 ppg), but really needs to be more consistent and pick up his game on the defensive side of the ball.  There has been so much turnover with transfers and the like, it's going to be hard to judge this team until they've had quite a few non-conference games under their belt.  Look for the once-hyped PG Kyree Jones to make an immediate impact.

The only way to watch this game (short of buying a ticket) appears to be some sort of pay-per-view on the NIU official website. If NU fans buy the PPV, can they expect an effective webstream and/or a reasonably professional broadcast?

MB: Watching the game on Huskies All-Access is OK I guess.  I suggest you go to the game though.  The ridiculous thing that they do is show an obscene amount of replays, so that you miss entire offensive possessions here and there.  It's better than nothing though.

editors note: I have since learned you can access this webstream through Northwestern's website, more info is here

How do you see the game turning out? Any chance of an upset?

MB: Uh...I'll side with KenPom and say we have less than a 10% of winning.  Way too many new players to work in.  If Xavier Silas gets hot, watch out though.  We'll lose by 25.

Thanks again to MIke for answering my questions, and hopefully he's right about the final margin of victory.