Wyoming takes on Northern Iowa on Friday in their first NCAA tournament in over a decade, so now is a good time to get to know the Panthers. Northern Iowa amassed 30 wins en route to winning the Missouri Valley conference tournament and also are ranked 11th and ninth in the major polls.
We reached out to the great folks at Mid-Major Madness to get even a better look at Northern Iowa.
1. How does Wyoming compare to Northern Iowa because they seem to be similar teams?
1. These teams are very similar. In fact, I would say that Northern Iowa is just an extreme version of Wyoming. They slow down the game in the same way and really work to find that open look, either from 3-point range, or inside to Seth Tuttle, whose floor movement without the ball is really underrated.
They just have things working on offense and defense a little better. There are two places where I see the big differences. One, the Panthers go a lot deeper into their bench and run out waves of players. That allows them to exceed at their pressure defense and really control the tempo for 40 minutes as opposed to running out of steam later. And two, the Panthers are an exceptional 3-point shooting team. Everyone on this team can shoot the ball from deep and they don't hesitate to do it. It really extends the defense and makes it difficult for teams to plan against them.
2. What is Northern Iowa's plan to slow down a now healthy Larry Nance, Jr.?
2. The best way to stop Larry Nance is to not let him get the ball. The Panthers are great at getting out against the opposing team's backcourt and really pressuring them to make a mistake with the ball. Basically any player you would see come out on the floor at the guard spots are going to terrorize you as you try to get the ball in side. And don't think that Tuttle isn't a good defender himself. He has pro moves in the post, and should be able to avoid foul trouble while still making Nance work for everything. And with the way this game is going to go in terms of tempo, Nance may not see the ball that often.
3. Who are key players that Wyoming should look out for on Northern Iowa?
3. Obviously the man to know is Seth Tuttle who should be an First Team All-American, but probably will be overlooked for the league in which he plays. He is an amazing scorer who can really stretch the floor. He is basically made of rubber and can twist himself to get into some amazing positions to get the shots. And he has amazing floor presence to know when his teammate would be the best choice to shoot the ball instead of him.
The other player is really the one you need to know for the "deep cuts" tracks on Northern Iowa, and that is Paul Jesperson. He plays on the second line for the Panthers, and is really the one who can hurt you from 3-point range. He is a Virginia transfer so knows what it is like to play up a level, and he does not get intimidated. He is going to make you grown at least a couple of times in this game when his man loses track of him, and he hurts you.
4. What is the style of game that Northern Iowa would like to be played against Wyoming?
4. Northern Iowa is going to do what it normally does in games. They are going to slow down the tempo down and play the slow game, much as Wyoming will. They will probably want to stay away from Nance on the inside so look for a lot of motion and passing on the outside as they look for the good open shot. Shooting from 3-point range is going to be key. On defense I expect the pressure defense to be the big difference as Northern Iowa will want to get out and capitalize on every turnover by the Cowboys. I don't know if we will see the full effect of the Northern Iowa style here because Wyoming also likes things slow, but it will give everyone else a taste.
5. How do you see this game playing out?
5. I feel bad that Northern Iowa got a dreaded 5-seed, because that is just asking for bad things to happen. And this crop of 12-seeds are very good. All of them have the ability to cause an upset in the first round and break a lot of brackets. But this is a very special Panther team, and one of the best teams in the country at both offense and defense. I can't see them going out this early (and I truthfully have picked them to go to the Final Four in a stacked region). It will be close 54-48 in favor of Northern Iowa.
This game tips Friday at 1:40 ET p.m. on TBS and in Seattle, very early tip.