Neither the Washington Huskies nor the Northern Illinois Huskies’ basketball teams are the big dogs on their respective campuses these days.
As the teams prepare for their meeting at Hec Edmundson Pavilion this afternoon, many of their fans will be thinking football.
The UW men’s basketball team will tip off at 4 p.m. — right around the time the football team will be finishing the Las Vegas Bowl against Boise State.
The university will try to ease the pain for fans interested in both games. The Hec Ed gates will open at 3 p.m., and the football game will be shown (without audio) on the video screen until tipoff. If the football game isn’t over when the basketball game starts, fans can watch the rest of the bowl game on TVs in the concourse.
Still, basketball coach Lorenzo Romar doesn’t know how many will take that option.
“Going against the bowl game, it’s going to be tough,” he said. “I’d watch the bowl game if I could.”
Meanwhile, NIU students and fans are buzzing about its football team’s Jan. 1 date against Florida State in the Orange Bowl – the school’s first appearance in a BCS game.
“Right now they’re all excited about the Orange Bowl,” NIU basketball coach Mark Montgomery said. “It’s great for the university; it’s great for all our programs. There’s more name-recognition now because of football. It’s helped us a little bit because they’re rock stars right now. When they’re at the games, everyone’s at the game. … We’re trying to definitely build off of the success of the football team.”
Romar agrees that a thriving football program can make things easier on the entire athletic department.
“You bring recruits to football games, and (it helps) when the program is successful,” he said. “Our football team is playing on television; it’s something you can talk to recruits about. Our guys, they meet (football coach Steve) Sarkisian on their visits. Those types of things are great. I’ve always pulled for them to do well.”
Of course, nothing increases interest in basketball like winning basketball games.
This UW hoops team got off to a 4-4 start, which included a home loss to Albany. Now, they’re up to 7-4 and hoping to extend their winning streak to four games against today’s 2-8 visitors.
Between the early missteps and the current distractions of the holidays and the bowls, Washington is averaging 7,424 in a home gym that seats 10,000.
“In 2009, we (started) 2-3 and our attendance was just like it is now,” Romar said. “We ended up winning, and they came back. We’ve got to do our part and come out here and be the best that we can be, and people will start coming back.”
NORTHERN ILLINOIS (2-8) at WASHINGTON (7-4)
4 p.m., Hec Edmundson Pavilion
TV: Pac-12 Network. Radio: 1150-AM.
All-time series: First meeting.
Desmond SimmonsF 126.96.36.1992.678.9
Scouting report: NIU returns its top five scorers from last season’s team, which went 5-26. NIU is coming off of a 75-48 loss at Seattle University on Wednesday. NIU’s wins have come against Judson University and Southern Illinois Edwardsville. Leading-scorer Abdel Nader has played in the past three games after being suspended to start the season for violating team rules. Antone Christian had a season-high 11 points in 10 minutes against Seattle U. Northern Illinois leads the Mid-America Conference with 14 offensive rebounds per game. Coach Mark Montgomery spent 10 seasons as an assistant at Michigan State and wants to bring that style of physical play, man-to-man defense and an emphasis on rebounding to NIU.email@example.com Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports