Team preview: Northern Illinois

Blue Ribbon Illustrated previews the 2003-04 college basketball season, exclusively on Insider.

Updated: November 5, 2003, 4:05 PM ET
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Editor's Note: Insider has teamed with Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook, long known as the Bible of college basketball, to provide a comprehensive look at all 327 Division I teams.

The MAC's 300-pound gorilla cast a formidable shadow over Northern Illinois' 2002-03 season, even as NIU posted its first winning season since 1995-96. But huskies are creatures of endurance, which may prove instrumental for the long chase after the West Division title.

Central Michigan salted away the West, and essentially the MAC crown, by knocking off NIU three times in a span of 21 days late last season-twice in the regular season, once in the conference tournament semifinals. All three defeats were by double digits, and CMU's NBA lottery pick, center Chris Kaman, figured prominently in two of them (19 points, 14 rebounds in a 73-57 home win, 23 and 14 in a 92-74 victory in the MAC semifinals).