In past seasons a visit by NIU after ten days off could easily be chalked up to "a gift from the basketball gods". A week and a half without a game takes the edge off of your team. After that layoff who would not welcome an NIU squad that was bad enough last season to all time NCAA record for fewest points in a half?
The Buffalo-NIU series has been owned by the Bulls going back to 2002. UB has won the last seven, and 10 of the last 11 games. But this years's edition of NIU is far better than any the MAC has seen of late. Northern Illinois is 6-6 this season after winning just five all of last year.
So the snow day taken by South Dakota State University leaves the Bulls long removed from a game and facing a vastly improved NIU hoops program.
One thing which may really hurt NIU is Dontel Highsmith's knee injury. He is the team's leading scorer so Darrell Bowie will have to step up. On the season Bowie averages 9.6 points and 7.2 rebounds.
Buffalo - now at 6-4 on the season - is coming off of a 55-52 win at Drexel in its last game and is being led by Javon McCrea, who is averaging 17.7 points and 9.6 rebounds. The Bulls have also been leaning on transfer Joshua Freelove, who also scores in double figures at 12.5 points per contest.
Men's Basketball: Buffalo Bulls Nonconference Schedule Review - Bull Run
And what of Joshua Freelove? The fifth year transfer has exceeded expectations and provided a steady hand and a penchant for a timely three to Amherst. Stepping up a notch or three in conference strength, Freelove has matched his 12 ppg from last season. I don't have much to say about Freelove, and in this case that's a good thing. He's just been solid.
This is the first of two games against NIU this season and as the conference opener its a chance for Bobby Hurley to start his MAC coaching career right.