Created:Thursday, November 10, 2011 11:31 p.m.CST
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Storylines to watch

By DAILY CHRONICLE STAFF - sports@daily-chronicle.com

Northern Illinois’ men’s and women’s basketball seasons are upon us, with the men starting their regular season tonight and the women’s season getting under way Sunday. Here are a few things to watch for the upcoming seasons:

TOUGHEST GAMES

Non-conference edition

Men: at Purdue, 6 p.m., today

The Mark Montgomery era kicks off in difficult fashion. NIU travels to Big Ten power Purdue with an inexperienced crew. Montgomery will find out early what he’s got on his squad.

Women: at DePaul, 2 p.m., Dec. 31

DePaul, a perennial power in the Big East, ends 2010 by hosting the NIU women in Chicago. The Blue Demons begin the season ranked No. 19 in the country and picked to finish sixth in the loaded Big East Conference.

Conference edition

Men: at Kent State, 6 p.m., Jan. 25

Kent State was picked not only to win the Mid-American Conference’s East Division, but the MAC tournament as well. Led by last year’s MAC player of the year, forward Justin Greene, the Golden Flashes are an explosive team that’s also tough to score against (42 percent field goal percentage defense last season).

Women: at Toledo, 3:30 p.m., Feb. 25

Yes, Bowling Green has been the dominant team of the MAC, but as long as the Rockets have guard Naama Shafir, this is the toughest game for the Huskies.

EASIEST STRETCH

Men: Dec. 14-Jan. 7

Montgomery called it a Jim Boeheim type of schedule at media day, referencing the Syracuse coach who rarely takes his team out of New York in the first two months of the season. With five straight home games, including what could be a key one from a recruiting standpoint against DePaul, this is a chance for the Huskies to pile up a few wins.

Women: Nov 16-Dec. 14

The women don’t leave the state for this stretch, so travel won’t be much of a problem. This stretch ends when the Huskies have to travel to Indiana.
PLAYERS TO WATCH

Men: Abdel Nader, freshman, forward

It’s hard to pick just one out of Montgomery’s talented and deep freshman class. But Nader comes in with the best credentials and led the Huskies in their lone exhibition game. Look for Nader to get out in transition and produce a few highlight-reel plays in his freshman campaign.

Women: Danielle Pulliam, sophomore, guard

The top of Kathi Bennett’s pack-line defense starts with Pulliam, who had 29 steals last year as a freshman. Pulliam will get her fair share of points – she’s too explosive not to – but what she does on defense will matter more for her team’s success.

Who wins the Boca Raton Bowl?
NIU
Marshall