A catastrophic season for Northern Iowa came to an abrupt end on Friday when the Panthers were forced to withdraw from the Missouri Valley tournament after a positive COVID-19 test. They were scheduled to face Drake in the quarterfinals at 6 p.m. ET, but did not come out to warm up beforehand. Speculation began swirling as the game was delayed, only to be confirmed shortly after the scheduled start time.
Jeff Goodman of Stadium was the first to official report the news.
The Missouri Valley quarterfinal between UNI-Drake is off due to COVID issue within UNI program, source told @Stadium.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanHoops) March 5, 2021
Drake moves onto the semis and will play the Valpo-Missouri State winner tomorrow. https://t.co/DCNVMwol0S— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanHoops) March 5, 2021
Drake will now only have to win two games in St. Louis in order to secure an NCAA Tournament bid. The Bulldogs are currently on the bubble and would have played a game on Friday that could have only hurt their tournament resume.
The Panthers, meanwhile, head home without a chance to redeem what was a rough 2020-21. They entered the season with high expectations, but dropped their first three games — albeit against quality competition and without Trae Berhow — to set an inauspicious tone. Matters got much worse before their next game when the program announced that star AJ Green would undergo season-ending hip surgery. Northern Iowa went on to lose its next two games against Division I competition.
The team sputtered the rest of the way, not beating consecutive Division I teams until a sweep of Illinois State to close the regular season. The Panthers then defeated the Redbirds for a third time on Thursday, setting up what would have been a 6 p.m. ET tip on Friday.