Name: Northern Illinois University
Commonly Known As: NIU
Location: DeKalb, Illinois
Founded: May 22nd, 1895 as Northern Illinois State Normal School
Wait, “normal” school? Yes, it sounds funny, but for whatever reason, that was the terminology at the time for a school that existed to train schoolteachers. They stopped with the silliness in the 1920s and went to “Northern Illinois State Teachers College” and then “Northern Illinois State College” in the 1950s. They didn’t get to be a university until 1957.
Enrollment: 11,358 undergrads in Fall 2023 for a total enrollment of 15,504.
Any interesting campus traditions? Well, if they exist, the school doesn’t want to acknowledge them. When the university lists “finish the PA announcer’s call for an NIU first down at football games” and “shout your section’s color when the cheerleaders point at you” as actual campus traditions, things are obviously pretty light on actual fun things on campus to do. Even the school newspaper can’t dress up the campus traditions as anything particularly interesting, although a Recycled Boat Race does sound kind of intriguing.
Why “Huskies”?: In 1899, they were known as the Profs, a name that referenced the early focus of the university’s as a teachers’ college. In 1920, the nickname changed again to be the Cardinals, and in the 1930s the team was known as the Evansmen. This nickname paid homage to George G. “Chick” Evans, a man who helped to modernize the athletics department, and who was one of four men on a committee that picked the name “Huskies.” Shouts to Chick for being willing to move the nickname away from something that honored him, apparently. It’s worth noting that the usual singular form of huskies is husky, BUT the singular form of NIU’s “Huskies” is “Huskie.” It seems to have originated in 1940 with the original decision to become the Huskies.
Notable Alumni: Dan Castellaneta, voice actor best known for being Homer Simpson amongst a bunch of other Simpsons characters as well; Tammy Duckworth, current United States Senator from Illinois, first female double-amputee from the Iraq War, and noted badass, Jimmy Chamberlin, former drummer for the Smashing Pumpkins; Joan Allen, a Tony-award winning actress on stage and an Academy Award-nominated actress on screen; Wood Harris, best known as Avon Barksdale on The Wire; Cindy Morgan, best known as Lacey Underall in Caddyshack; Kurt Sutter, creator of Sons of Anarchy; Matt Walsh, “that guy” you see in everything, but probably best known for playing Mike McLintock in Veep; P.J. Fleck, current head football coach of the Minnesota Golden Gophers #RowTheBoat ™; Jordan Lynch, former NIU quarterback who finished third in Heisman Trophy voting in 2013; professional wrestler Maria Kanellis; long time WSCR radio host Terry Boers, and finally, Dennis Hastert, the longest serving Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives and an admitted child molester.
More on Wood Harris: This isn’t even his second most famous role, but it might be his funniest line ever.
Last Season: 13-19, 9-9 in the Mid-American Conference
Final 2022-23 KenPom.com Ranking: #250
Final 2022-23 T-Rank Ranking: #246
Preseason 2023-24 KenPom.com Ranking: #252
Preseason 2023-24 T-Rank Ranking: #221
Preseason Poll: Northern Illinois was picked to finish fifth in the 12 team MAC this season. David Coit is the only NIU player to earn all-conference honors, landing on the MAC Second Team.
Returning Stat Leaders
Points: Keshawn Williams, 17.9 ppg
Rebounds: Zarique Nutter, 4.8 rpg
Assists: David Coit, 2.8 apg
A slight note on NIU’s scoring: Keshawn Williams is the official team leader in scoring, but he suffered a season ending injury in early January. David Coit played in 29 of their 32 games last year and averaged 15.5 points to have a claim as the team’s top returning scorer.
Bigs? Sophomore Yanic Konan Niederhauser measures in at 6’11” and 215 pounds. He played in 20 games last season with two starts, averaging 2.2 points and 1.5 rebounds in 7.6 minutes a game. Oluewasegun Durosinmi and Harvin Ibarguen both measure up at 6’9” and 235 pounds, so they can be a factor inside. Ibarguen had the bigger role last season, starting 21 times in 31 appearances and averaging 5.8 points and 4.4 rebounds in just short of 21 minutes a night. Durosinmi was a rotation guy at just short of 11 minutes a night in 29 appearances with seven starts. His contributions were minimal: 2.2 points and 2.9 rebounds, but 0.8 blocks per game in 11 minutes turns into a better block rate per KenPom.com than anyone on Marquette posted last year.
Shooters? David Coit fired off more than seven three-pointers per game last season, and connected on 38% of them. If Keshawn Williams is back and ready to go this fall, he can provide some pop behind the arc after hitting on 35% of 4.5 attempts per game last year. Familiar face Philmon Gebrewhit knocked down 37% of his 94 attempts for DePaul last season. It feels like a safe bet that he’s expecting to play a pretty big role for the Huskies if he’s pursuing an extra year of eligibility in DeKalb.
Head Coach: Rashon Burno, entering his third season in charge of the Huskies. He has record of 22-40 over the past two years with a 15-23 mark in MAC games. If that name rings a bell for you, then you remember the 5’9” guard for DePaul who averaged 5.2 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 3.7 assists in 120 appearances between 1998 and 2002.