Northern Iowa Panthers
Missouri Valley Conference
Last NCAA Appearance: 2006, First Round loss to Georgetown
Coach: Ben Jacobson (First NCAA appearance)
Why They Can Surprise:
Heading into the season Northern Iowa had some questions at point guard. Was Kwadzo Ahelegbe healthy enough following multiple shoulder injuries? Could the team rely on junior college transfer Ali Farokhmanesh or freshman Johnny Moran? As it turns out, Ahelegbe is healthy and Farokhmanesh and Moran are having great years. In fact, those three ballhandlers are the starting backcourt and that has turned the Panthers into one of the most efficient ballhandling teams in the nation.
Having three players who can take care of the ball is nice, but Coach Ben Jacobson would not be able to afford having all those guys on the floor if they could not score as well. Ahelegbe is the most effective and aggressive scorer on the perimeter and he will spend a lot of time on the charity stripe. Farokhmanesh is the shooter of the bunch and most of his shots will come from long range. Moran is a little of both and will hit the three-pointer and get to the basket.
Why They Can Disappoint:
The opposition shoots very well against UNI from just about everywhere on the floor. The biggest reason for that is the lack of a shot blocking threat. Jordan Eglseder is a 7-1, 290 pound center who can block a shot here and there, but overall the team is not very productive in that area. That will lead to the opposition getting quite a few easy looks around the basket. The other big man is 6-8 junior Adam Koch and he does not block shots either. Koch is a versatile scorer who leads the team with 11.7 points per game and he has had an extremely productive junior campaign, yet his defense has been a problem at times.
Who To Watch:
Koch and Eglseder cannot play 40 minutes a game, although they have done a decent job of staying out of foul trouble. But sophomore Lucas O’Rear plays over 20 minutes per game and he is nowhere near as productive in the scoring column as Koch and Eglseder. O’Rear is a solid defender and a great rebounder, but the lack of depth in the frontcourt has haunted UNI at times during this season and could so again during the tournament. The Panthers could also use some production from the guards that come in off the bench. Travis Brown is an experienced senior and Kerwin Dunham started 17 games as a freshman before being mostly relegated to the bench this year.
Kwadzo Ahelegbe, Sophomore, Guard
Johnny Moran, Freshman, Guard
Ali Farokhmanes, Junior, Guard
Adam Koch, Junior, Forward
Jordan Eglseder, Junior, Center
Travis Brown, Senior, Guard
Kerwin Dunham, Sophomore, Guard
Lucas O’Rear, Sophomore, Forward
Following the final Bracket announcement, more team info will be added, including final RPI, final team statistical rankings, Joel's prediction, and more!