Northern Iowa Panthers
Good Wins: N-Auburn, Creighton, Illinois State, @Illinois State, N-Illinois State
Bad Losses: at Illinois-Chicago, Iowa State, Iowa, Indiana State, Wyoming, at Wichita State and Drake
1. Balance. On the offensive end, Northern Iowa’s five starters (Adam Koch, Jordan Egleseder, Ali Farokhmanesh, Kwadzo Ahelegbe and Johnny Moran) are all averaging between 8.6 and 12 points per game. If Panthers head coach Ben Jacobson wants to go to his bench, he turns to the winner of the Missouri Valley Conference Sixth Man of the Year award in Lucas O’Rear (5 ppg, 5 rpg, 43 3PT%).
2. Size. As far as mid-major teams usually go, UNI has a very large frontcourt lineup that includes 7-foot-1, 290-pound Jordan Eglseder. The monster junior from Bellevue, Iowa is averaging 10.2 ppg, 6.6 rpg and 59 percent shooting from the field. When Eglseder gets a breather, they can always still feed the ball into leading scorer Adam Koch (12.5 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 51 FG%).
3. Defense. It’s no coincidence that the Panthers have lost every game that they’ve allowed more than 70 points. With the 173rd-most prolific offense in the country, the margin for error isn’t large on the defensive end. However, when UNI does win the battle on the boards and defend the perimeter (like they did for three straight days in St. Louis), they become a very frustrating matchup.
1. Pace of play. UNI can play only one way and if they get matched up with a fastbreak/highly athletic team, the Panthers could be in trouble. This fact was made even clearer during their Bracketbuster game at Siena. Jacobson has to be able to rely on point guard Kwadzo Ahelegbe to slow the speed of the game down and patiently get UNI into one of their many halfcourt sets in order to find a open shot.
First round and out. Normally a co-champion of the MVC would be featured to make a more significant run deeper into March but it’s hard to figure UNI being the more talented or more athletic team in its first round matchup. The other factor against the Panthers is a scenario that involves outside shots simply not falling, which would kill UNI.