Team Profile: Northern Iowa at Siena Preview
Saturday, 3 P.M. EST, ESPN2
The contrasting-styles matchup of this year’s Bracketbuster event will take place in Loudonville, N.Y., where Northern Iowa comes to town with its slow-down, defensive, long-range shooting style to take on the Saints, who prefer games in the 80s. Look for 2008 MAAC Tournament MVP Kenny Hasbrouck to have a big game.
“The Saints played a great schedule, even though they didn’t win any of the games in Orlando at the Old Spice Classic or against Kansas or Pitt,” ESPN analyst Andy Katz wrote on Feb. 3. “Northern Iowa is leading the Missouri Valley with a 10-1 record. But the Panthers beat NO ONE in the non-conference that will be in the NCAA tournament.”
Northern Iowa’s five starters (Adam Koch, Jordan Egleseder, Ali Farokhmanesh, Kwadzo Ahelegbe and Johnny Moran) all average between 9.2 and 12 points per game. However, after losses to Creighton and Wichita State, the Panthers hold only a one-game lead in a down Missouri Valley Conference.
Siena will challenge the Panthers’ tough man-to-man defense with their desire to get the ball out on the break and finish with either Hasbrouck or 6-foot-6 wing player Edwin Ubiles (14.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg).
Key Matchup: The unstoppable force (Siena’s offense) vs. the immovable object (UNI defense)
Siena head coach Fran McCaffery has his team shooting over 45 percent and scoring 77 points per game while UNI hasn’t scored 70 in five of its last eight games.
The Panthers know to win the game they have to play perfect defense and probably hold Siena under its previous low of 64 versus Tennessee.
The key stat of the game may be turnovers because the Saints average nine steals a game, which immediately leads to fast-break opportunities.
Prediction: Siena 84, Northern Iowa 66
UNI has lost its last two Bracketbuster matchups and Siena is just clearly that much more athletic than the Panthers. Hasbrouck looks to shine on a national stage after struggling during the three losses at the Old Spice Classic.