A biased look at the upcoming MVC Tournament
Published: Monday, March 4, 2013
Updated: Monday, March 4, 2013 16:03
With an 80-72 victory over the Illinois State University Redbirds on Saturday night, the University of Northern Iowa men’s basketball team will head to St. Louis this week as the No. 3 seed in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament. Their reward is a rematch with the No. 6-seeded Redbirds in the second round, a team they swept during the regular season.
Although the Panthers defeated the Redbirds by 10 points in Normal, Ill., back in January and won by eight points in Cedar Falls this past weekend, I really hate this matchup. I would have much rather seen Drake University secure the No. 6 seed instead of ISU. UNI and head coach Ben Jacobson seem to have Drake’s number, plus Illinois State is one of the most athletic teams in the MVC.
However, I tend to be pretty optimistic, so I say the Panthers will win a hard-fought game against the Redbirds in St. Louis to complete the season sweep. UNI wins 65-61.
Next looms a likely matchup with the Wichita State Shockers, the No. 2 seed. While I would have rather seen the Panthers be on the same side of the bracket as Creighton University, UNI could be catching WSU at the perfect time.
The Panthers have won seven of their last eight games against MVC competition, including a five-point win over the Shockers back on Feb. 2. WSU, on the other hand, has lost two straight games and five of their last down the stretch, sealing an 80-72 Senior Night victory. The Panthers finished MVC play winning seven of their last eight conference games.
The four seniors, Koch, Sonnen, James and Austin Pehl, made the most of their minutes Saturday night and ended their final home game with a bang. James scored a team-high 19 points, Koch and Sonnen chipped in with 18 points apiece and Pehl scored two points and grabbed four rebounds in 12 minutes of action.
UNI outrebounded ISU 42-26 with 19 offensive rebounds compared to just three for the Redbirds.
“I think this was the best senior night I’ve had. Obviously it’s the only one I’ve had, but it’s the best one I could ask for,” said Sonnen.