Northern Illinois (0-0) at Nebraska Omaha (0-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, Nov. 9, 8 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Ralston Arena (4,691) -- Ralston, Nebraska. Television: None. Home Record: NIU 0-0, UNO 0-0. Away Record: NIU 0-0, UNO 0-0. Neutral Record: NIU 0-0, UNO 0-0. Conference Record: NIU 0-0, UNO 0-0. Series Record: Nebraska Omaha leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: The Nebraska Omaha Mavericks are set to open up Ralston Arena and their 2012-2013 season as they host the Northern Illinois Huskies for non- conference action.
Coach Mark Montgomery failed to bring the success he found at Michigan State as an assistant to DeKalb last season, and the Huskies finished 3-22 in his inaugural year at the helm of the program. NIU should be able to make strides in the right direction this season as the team's top-five scorers and rebounds all return with experience and chips on their shoulders. The Huskies defeated Division III Aurora by 34 points in its only exhibition game.
UNO is beginning its second season since reclassifying to the NCAA Division I level. The Mavericks finished 11-18 in their first run through the highest division in college basketball. They are now members of the Summit League, but they will not be eligible for the conference or NCAA Tournament until 2015-2016. UNO was able to make the transition under Derrin Hansen, who is entering his eighth year as the program's head coach with a 121-86 overall record.
This will be just the second meeting on the hardwood between UNO and NIU. The Mavericks managed to escape DeKalb with a 77-72 victory last December to build a 1-0 series lead.
For NIU, sophomore Abdel Nader (10.4 ppg, 4.2 rpg) and junior Aksel Bolin (10.4 ppg, 4.2 rpg) return after serving as bright spots to the team's nightmare of a season a year ago. Nader earned a spot on the MAC All-Freshman Team last season and led the team with 22 blocks. NIU is going to exhibit its backcourt of the future as the freshmen tandem of Akeem Springs and Travon Baker make their debuts in the starting lineup. Sophomore twin forwards Kevin and Keith Gray will play much bigger roles this season.
UNO was lucky to add senior forward Koang Doluony to its roster in the off season. Doluony brings size and experience with him to the squad after spending his first three years playing for Indiana State. Alex Welhouse (6-7) and John Karnoff (6-8) will play alongside Doluny to give the Mavericks' a decently sized front line. Karhoff not only provides size, but also a scoring touch that netted him 12.9 ppg last season as a sophomore. C.J. Carter and Justin Simmons will man the UNO backcourt. Carter was selected as the independent freshman of the year last season after posting 10.4 ppg.
Last season's hard-fought battle will be quickly remembered when its sequel begins. NIU should be a much different looking team with its newcomers stepping into vital roles right away. UNO will need a strong performance out of its forwards to improve to 2-0 against the Huskies.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Northern Illinois 70, Nebraska Omaha 68
11/09 10:37:22 ET