March Madness Pick
Of all the early-round matchups this one seems like the most possible to involve an upset. Not many are giving Texas much respect, despite finishing 11-7 in the Big 12. But part of that is also because Northern Iowa has won 12 of 13 Games with two of those coming against Wichita State. Of course, you can’t really compare the MVC to the Big 12.
We know this Game is going to be excruciating to watch, at least on the scoreboard. Northern Iowa slows it down as much as any team in the country and allowed under 63 points per Game on the year. The Panthers have already taken down a few giants this year, beating UNC 71-67 and Iowa State 81-79. Of course, they also lost big to Richmond and New Mexico and at one point lost six of seven Games in MVC play.
It took awhile for Texas to get going, losing three of its first five Games, but soon enough the Longhorns put things together and eventually beat UNC as well, 84-82. They picked up a number of nice wins in Conference play, winning at Baylor and sweeping West Virginia. Still, the Longhorns aren’t a team that does anything particularly well. They don’t have great offensive or rebounding numbers and are 301st in the country in assists.
Those numbers immediately open up for an upset possibility. Northern Iowa excels on the defensive end and if Texas has trouble scoring and spreading the rock, then how will they Scoreagainst the Panthers?
The Longhorns are plagued by inconsistency and that starts in the backcOurt. Isaiah Taylor has been a lot better player this year at taking care of the ball, but he’s still a poor shooter and isn’t a guy that’s going to go off for 30 points. OUtside of him, Texas only has two other players that average more than 8 points per Game and one of them is Cameron Ridley, who isn’t 100% healthy and probably won’t play much in this Game.
Texas will need to get something out of Javan Felix, who has really disappointed in his senior season and didn’t even Scorein the loss to Baylor in the Big 12 Tournament. Prince Ibeh and Demarcus Holland are mostly defensive players, with stretch-4 Connor LAmmert and players off the bench like Kerwin Roach and Eric Davis being the other scorers.
Backing Northern Iowa to at least cover in this Game seems like the smart approach because a blowout doesn’t seem likely for the Longhorns.
The Panthers aren’t much better on the offensive end, but a lot of that is due to the way they play. They’ll eat up the shot clock as much as possible unless they have an open look from 3. Otherwise, Wes Washpun is left to find a shot himself and that’s not entirely a bad thing. Washpun is a playmaker and scored 21 points against UNC earlier this year. Expect the senior to be on his Game here.
OUtside of Washpun, UNI has a sling of shooters in Matt Bohannon, Paul Jesperson and Jeremy Morgan. All three of them shoot close to 40% from deep, while Texas doesn’t even have one guy that hits that mark.
The Longhorns probably exceeded expectations in Shaka Smart’s first year and find themselves with a tough matchup in the first round. The Panthers are confident and made it to the Round of 32 last year. While Seth Tuttle is gone, they actually have a more balanced squad this time around and that should come into play against an inconsistent Texas team.