MARQUETTE — In the GLIAC, men’s basketball is as competitive as it has ever been and Northern Michigan believes that this is the year they make a big jump.
The Wildcats are coming off a disappointing season as they finished last in the division. But after months of practicing and scrimmages, head coach Bill Sall is a lot more optimistic about his team chances to top last year’s win total.
“It feels good to look out there and see a basketball team, a little more along the style of what I would like to see. Good length, some nice athleticism and a group of guys that really passionate about playing, which is a good start to getting to where you go to go,” Sall said.
Coach Sall added that he is bringing in the most talent freshman he has ever recruited, but it will be last year’s core lineup that will shoulder most of the load to being the season.
“They have a ton of minutes under their belt. They played in a lot of situations and they’re going to have to be the leaders and be the ones that carry along the freshman. And freshman are always inconsistent. That’s part of being a freshman. In the same breath, what I’ve seen out of this group is a nice cohesive unit where everybody is really on the same page,” said Sall.
The GLIAC men’s basketball pre–season coaches’ poll predicts that the Wildcats will finish tied for sixth in the North Division. NMU was very competitive in a lot of close games last season, which sets them up well to take that next step this season.
“Pre–season polls are what they are, and this year in particular in the GLIAC, there’s a lot of teams that are in the same position as us with youth and a lot of new faces that are going to be playing. This is really not a veteran group, as far as you look at the overall team’s in the GLIAC, probably with the exception of Saginaw Valley,” said Sall.
One of the biggest issues for NMU last season as length as they ranked near the bottom last season in rebounding, as well as points in the paint. But the new recruits bring the size that the Wildcats so desperately need.
“How many times last year did we look out there and we were 6’4″, 6’3″, 5’10”? And now we’re replacing that with 6’9″, 6’7″ and 6’7″. That’s a big difference. It will allow us to incorporate things defensively, and from the rebounding situation, which is really going to help us out a bunch,” Sall said.
The Wildcats will open the season this weekend as they take part in the GLVC/GLIAC challenge down in Romeoville, Illinois.