The poll, as well as the teams, was selected by a 24-member MAC News Media panel.
Northern Illinois was picked to finish fifth in the West as the Huskies garnered 64 total points, just four points behind fourth-place Western Michigan (68). Ball State (124 points) and Central Michigan (122) were tabbed as the favorites in the West with Eastern Michigan (88) in the third position. Toledo (38 points) was in the No. 6 spot. Four teams in the West garnered first-place votes, including the Huskies, who were the first-place choice of two voters.
Ohio (128 points) is the preseason favorite in the East Division as the Bobcats out-distanced second-place Kent State (114) and third-place Akron (104). Miami (84), Bowling Green (42) and Buffalo (32) followed, with Ohio, Kent State and Akron earning first place nods.
Northern Illinois Head Coach Ricardo Patton echoed the sentiments of several coaches who took part in Wednesday’s MAC pre-season media teleconference when he discounted the value of pre-season polls.
“Polls are polls,” he said. “I doubt very seriously that Ohio was picked to win it last year. Where you are picked in the preseason is predicated on what you did in the previous year. This is a new year for us and that’s how we are approaching it. There’s only one player that has any name recognition on our team and because people aren’t familiar with our new guys, and even some of our returning guys, expectations of those outside the program are not high.”
While others may know little about the 2010-11 Huskies, whose roster features seven returning letterwinners and seven newcomers, Patton enters the year with optimism and likes the attitude his team is bringing to practice every day.
“I think we have as good a chance as anyone at this point,” said NIU’s fourth-year head coach. “I think every coach goes into any new season very optimistic. There are certain things that have to go your way. You have to get good bounces and have some luck involved. You have to be playing your best basketball in the latter months [of the season]. Overall the guys have worked extremely hard in the preseason and their attitudes have been great.
Silas is the player who brings name recognition for the Huskies in 2010-11. He was a second team All-District 14 selection by the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) last year and scored 20 or more points 10 times with 19 double-digit scoring games. His 493 points were the most scored by an NIU player since 2001-02 and he also pulled down 132 rebounds. He was the only player in the MAC to rank in the top five of the league in scoring and in the top 20 in rebounding.
As practice opened, Patton said that he has seen improvements in Silas’ game and in his leadership this season.
“I think Xavier had a really good year last year having sat out the year before. I’m just hoping that he has a great senior campaign and I expect that he will; he’s put in the work,” Patton said. “He knows he has to be a better defensive player and he has the capability to be a better defensive player. His teammates respect his ability and he’s learned to respect theirs.”
Northern Illinois opens the 2010-11 season Saturday, Nov. 6, with an exhibition game versus Coe [Iowa] College in the NIU Convocation Center. Tip-off is at 3 p.m.
For more information on NIU men’s basketball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.