clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

2016 NCAA Tournament First Round Preview: Northern Iowa Panthers vs. Texas Longhorns

Ben Jacobson, aka Jake the Giant Killer, and clutch performer Wes Washpun, look for another upset in the NCAA Tournament.

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

College basketball fans remember Northern Iowa's 2010 victory over Kansas, and this year's upsets of North Carolina and Iowa State, and they realize that the Panthers are a team that can defeat any of the college basketball elite.

College basketball fans remember Shaka Smart's deep runs in the NCAA Tournament at VCU and they realize his current University of Texas squad can wreak havoc on any team in the nation.

Those two teams meet Friday in Oklahoma City.

Northern Iowa knocked off then top ranked North Carolina, and then second ranked Iowa State early in the season, and then hit a rut during the beginning of the Missouri Valley Conference season.

The Panthers won 12 of their final 13 games, captured the MVC tournament championship, and are heading to the NCAA tournament for the seventh time in last 13 years. "Jake the Giant Killer", aka head coach Ben Jacobson, knows how to prepare his players for teams from the power five conferences.

These two teams couldn't be more different. Both play great defense, but they do it differently. Texas wants to press, force turnovers and accelerate the pace of play, while UNI packs their defenders in the middle of the floor to force opponents shoot over the top.

Northern Iowa (22-12) is a superior shooting team. They love to shoot threes and led the Missouri Valley in free throw shooting. Texas (20-12) struggles offensively, but the Longhorns win games with their pressure defense. Their goal is to force turnovers and UNI is one of the best teams in the nation at limiting turnovers.

Arch Madness MVP Wes Washpun may be the best big game player that most fans in the nation don't yet know. The 6-1 senior averages over 14 points and five assists per game, but it is those big game situations and his great defense that set him apart.

Washpun scored 21 points and handed out eight assists against North Carolina, and netted 28 with 11 helpers against Iowa State. With their season on the line in the MVC tournament, Washpun scored 20 points in the semifinal and 18 including a buzzer beating game-winner in the championship game.

He'll be matched up against all-conference Texas guard Isaiah Taylor who also averages over 14 points and just under five assists per game.

Where Texas has a distinct advantage is in the paint. A pair of tall post players, Prince Ibeh and Cameron Ridley are tall shot blockers and Ridley, who is just returning from injury is an offensive threat down low. Ibeh was named to the Big 12's all defensive team.

Ridley hadn't played this calendar year, until appearing for two minutes at the conference tournament. Prior to his injury he was averaging close to 12 points and over nine rebounds per game.

Can UNI senior play-makers Washpun, Matt Bohannon and Paul Jesperson handle the Texas pressure? Will the elite Panther defenders, Washpun and junior Jeremy Morgan adjust against a much bigger team? Can sophomore post players Klint Carlson and Bennett Koch combat those two powerful senior centers? Those are the questions for this first round game.

It looks to be a low scoring game, and the Panthers should win it: Northern Iowa 63, Texas 58.