Northern Iowa (0-0) at Ohio University (0-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 9, 2 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Convocation Center (13,080) -- Athens, Ohio. Television: None. Home Record: NIU 0-0, Ohio 0-0. Away Record: NIU 0-0, Ohio 0-0. Neutral Record: NIU 0-0, Ohio 0-0. Conference Record: NIU 0-0, Ohio 0-0. Series Record: Ohio leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: The Ohio University Bobcats and Northern Iowa Panthers will open up their respective 2013-14 campaigns on Saturday, as the two teams square off at the Convocation Center in Athens.
Jim Christian's first season with Ohio couldn't have gone much better. The Bobcats won 24 games a year ago, captured a share of the Mid-American Conference regular season title and earned a bid to the NIT. Four starters are gone from that squad, but with eight letterwinners returning, the cupboard isn't completely bare in Athens.
Ben Jacobsen's Panthers are also coming off a strong 2012-13, finishing with a 21-15 overall mark, which included an 11-7 record in the Missouri Valley Conference. The team does have to replace several starters from that group, but the return of all-conference selection in Seth Tuttle and a decent supporting cast should help assuage the losses and keep Northern Iowa in the hunt in the MVC.
This is just the second all-time meeting between these two programs on the hardwood. The Bobcats won the only other matchup in 2011.
The offensive end of the floor will have much different look for NIU, as the Panthers must replace three double-figure scorers. The losses of Anthony James (13.2 ppg), Marc Sonnen (10.5 ppg) and Jake Koch (10.4 ppg) will not be easy to overcome. Deon Mitchell (9.3 ppg) will be charged with leading the way in the backcourt, while preseason All-MVC forward Seth Tuttle (11.4 ppg) will shoulder the burden up front. Tuttle is third among all active MVC players in both career scoring and career rebounding. Freshman Ted Friedman (6-9, 250) will try and solidify the play in the paint for NIU. Other players who will need to step up include sophomore guards Matt Bohannon (44 3-pointers last season) and Wes Washpun, who sat out last season after transferring in from Tennessee.
The Bobcats are in certainly in a rebuilding mode this season. The team suffered a huge loss with the graduation of D.J. Cooper, who became the first guard in Division I history to tally over 2,000 points, 900 assists, 600 rebounds and 300 steals. Three others starters are also no longer in Athens, leaving a void that may not be filled solely with returning talent. Leading the way for the new look Bobcats will be senior guard Nick Kellogg (8.0 ppg), the only returning starter. Senior forward T.J. Hall (4.8 ppg, 1.6 rpg) will move into a starter's role this season, after serving in a reserve roll in 2012-13. The hope is that senior Jon Smith (4.8 ppg) can improve offensively and give the team a threat at both ends of the court, after ranking seventh in the MAC in blocked shots a year ago (1.4 per game). Transfers as Javarez Willis (Texas Tech) and Treg Setty (Southern Illinois) will be called on to deliver scoring depth as well.
This is an intriguing season opener with two teams that have been highly successful of late. The Panthers will have the best player on the court in Tuttle and his ability to command attention in the paint could lead to a big road win for NIU here.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Northern Iowa 66, Ohio University 63
11/09 10:39:37 ET