Northern Iowa meets Purdue in the West Region Thursday and has a chance to become the latest fifth seed to defeat a 12 in NCAA tournament play.
Let’s take a closer look at the Northern Iowa Panthers from the Missouri Valley Conference:
Northern Iowa struggled in non-conference play, losing by 30 to Marquette at home, and losing to bad in-state rivals Iowa and Iowa State. The Panthers also lost to Sienna late in the season in an ESPN bracket buster matchup.
UNI’s best non-conference win came against Auburn, with the Panthers winning 67-61 in Cedar Falls.
Northern Iowa was awful early this season, but reeled off an impressive 11-straight wins in MVC play to finish with a 14-4 conference record. The best victory during the streak came against NCAA bubble team Creighton in Omaha, where the Blue Jays almost never lose.
Adam Koch leads UNI in scoring at 12. 3 ppg. The 6′ 8″ Koch has a nice jumper and is crafty around the basket. Point guard Kwadzo Ahelegbe emerged this season and was great in MVC tournament. Ahelegbe isn’t a great shooter, but is quick and strong. The Panthers have good size, especially with 7’1″ Jordan Eglseder in the middle.
Purdue is a good draw for the Panthers. The Boilers have similar size and depth to UNI, and prefer a slow tempo. Although not overly athletic, Purdue is more athletic than usual and certainly more athletic than UNI.
A low-scoring game definitely favors UNI. Without predicting who will win the first round matchup, I will say that the Panthers probably aren’t this year’s George Mason.