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Bracket Buster 03/08/2010

Posted by sportretort in Sports.
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Senior center (and 7 footer) Eglseder of the Panthers

Congratulations to the University of Northern Iowa. The Panthers defeated Wichita State yesterday to win the Missouri Valley Conference tournament and claim the MVC’s automatic bid into the Big Dance. Having won the conference regular season crown by 3 games, and having won 27 games heading into the finals against the Shockers, the Panthers probably would have been in the tournament anyway, but now they will not have to squirm for a week. They made it official. The Panthers won the MVC automatic bid last season, also, bowing as a 12th seed to 5th seed Purdue by 5 points in the opening round of the 2009 NCAA tournament. That experience should prove invaluable to the Panthers. Last season, they were happy to just be a part of March Madness. This season, they have loftier expectations.

Looking for a surprise team to go on an unexpected tournament run? Take a hard look at these Panthers. Depending on their seeding and draw, this team could reach the sweet 16 or more. Most projections I have seen has them projected as an 8 or 9 seed. That would give them a better first round match up, and this team will be up to the challenge. The Panthers may be the best team you don’t know about.

Panther guard Ali Farokhmanesh hits a 3 pointer

UNI finished their season with a 28-4 mark. Granted, they did not play the toughest schedule, but they beat the best teams they played. They are 4-1 against top 50 RPI teams, and currently have an RPI inside the top 20 themselves. The Panthers spent much of the last half of the season ranked among the AP top 25 teams. As previously mentioned, this team has NCAA tournament experience, having made an appearance last year. Also, this team is 5-1 in neutral court games this season. UNI is experienced, having 5 seniors and 3 juniors on the squad. This team ranks 2nd in the nation defensively, surrendering only 54.3 points per contest. UNI also hits 75% as a squad from the charity stripe. This team comes at their opponents in waves, going 10 deep. Whoever plays the Panthers must be ready for 40 minutes of all out defensive effort.

The Panthers are led by 7 foot center Jordan Egleseder, Forward Jake Koch and guards Kwadzo Ahelegbe and Ali Farokhmanesh, all seniors except for the junior Ahelegbe. They are a tough nosed, hard-working, veteran team that not only has a strong inside presence, but also is adept behind the 3 point arc. Any one who takes the Panthers too lightly does so at their own peril. Watch for UNI to win their first 2 games and make the sweet 16. From there, who knows?

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