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UT Arlington at Northern Iowa: Game preview, how to watch, and more

Tonight’s game should be a great matchup between the two teams.

NCAA Basketball: Battle 4 Atlantis Championship-Villanova vs Northern Iowa Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Who: UT Arlington Mavericks (7-1) at Northern Iowa Panthers (6-2)
When: Thursday December 7, 8:00 p.m. ET
Where: McLeod Center - Cedar Falls, Iowa
How to Watch: WatchESPN/ESPN3
KenPom: Northern Iowa 68-64 (62% chance of victory)

It’s rare that to have a matchup between two mid-majors in December that could have potential implications on Selection Sunday, but tonight will be one of those cases. Tonight’s matchup between UT Arlington and Northern Iowa features two of the best mid-majors in the country, and both teams have cracked the top 10 of our latest power rankings.

Both teams have their sights set on the postseason, and have already started to construct their resumes. Northern Iowa already holds wins over SMU and NC State on a a neutral court, as well as an overtime win against UNLV. UT Arlington has a road win over BYU, but will need to capitalize on tonight’s opportunity as it’s one of the few that they have for quality wins.

KenPom has it rated as the top game of the night on Fanmatch, so it’s well worth your time to tune into this bout.

KenPom Four Factors

UTA/UNI Four Factors

- Effective Field Goal % Turnover % Off. Reb % Free Throw Rate
- Effective Field Goal % Turnover % Off. Reb % Free Throw Rate
UT Arlington (#83 Adj. Offense) 56.9 (28th) 20.2 (227th) 31.1 (124th) 33.9 (187th)
Northern Iowa (#29 Adj. Defense) 44.3 (28th) 17.5 (258th) 24.4 (44th) 21.4 (9th)
- - - - -
Northern Iowa (#176 Adj. Offense) 50.8 (174th) 20.0 (218th) 29.7 (160th) 26.9 (310th)
UT Arlington (#97 Adj. Defense) 46.8 (64th) 20.8 (96th) 29.4 (192nd) 38.9 (254th)

Backcourt

The Mavericks backcourt is headline by one of the nation’s best point guards in Erick Neal. He leads the nation in assists at 10.2 per contest, and his 13.6 points per game make him a scoring threat as well. Simply put, he is the engine that makes the car go. His running mate, Kaelon Wilson, is a capable scorer that is hitting over 40 percent of his threes on the year so far.

For Northern Iowa, there isn’t a headliner at the caliber of Neal, but a pair of underclassmen have been great for the Panthers so far. Juwan McCloud has taken on a bigger scoring role with more minutes this year, and is one of three players averaging double figures for the Panthers at 11.8 PPG. However, Ben Jacobson has one of the most unique freshman around with Tywhon Pickford. The 6’4 guard has shown a knack for scoring, but he also happens to be the team’s best rebounder. Pickford is pulling down 11.1 rebounds per game, which is a great number for a college player but especially absurd for a guard.

Advantage: Tie

Frontcourt

It’s no secret that Kevin Hervey is the star for Scott Cross. The athletic combo forward is capable of hurting you inside and out, and pours in 23.8 points per game. The scouting report will revolve around him, and UTA will need a strong performance from their go-to guy if they hope to win. He lines up next a 7-footer in Johnny Hamilton, who is the second leading scorer for the Mavericks at just over 14 points per game. If he can stay out of foul trouble, he has the skillset to make it a long night at the rim for Northern Iowa.

Northern Iowa doesn’t have anyone quite at the level of Hervey, but Bennett Koch and Klint Carlson as experience as they come. Koch leads the Panthers in scoring at 17 per game, while Carlson is coming off a 23-point outing against UNLV. They’ll be tasked with slowing down Hervey and Hamilton, which will be their second straight matchup against a tough backcourt. However, the two should be up to task after holding UNLV’s duo of Brandon McCoy and Shakur Juiston to a combined 22 points and 20 rebounds, which was well below their season averages. Tonight’s game could very well come down to the battle of the bigs.

Advantage: UT Arlington

Prediction

The most interesting aspect of this game is the distinct contrast in styles. UT Arlington wants to get up and down and score, and they will try topush the tempo to get the game into the 70s or 80s. Northern Iowa, however, plays at one of the slowest paces in the country.

Kevin Hervey is capable of taking over a game single-handedly. If he and Neal are working their two-man game all night, UTA should like their chances. But if Northern Iowa is able to control the tempo and keep the Mavericks out of the paint in front of what should be a solid crowd, the Panthers will likely add another solid win to their resume.

Pick: Northern Iowa 71, UT Arlington 66