Location: Cedar Falls, IA
Conference: Missouri Valley
Last Year’s Record: 23-11
Why they’ll make it: Losing only two players and returning all five starters, the Panthers will be as loaded as anyone in the MVC this season. Led by the imposing frontcourt of Adam Koch and 7’1 Jordan Eglseder as well as Kwadzo Ahelegbe in the backcourt, the Panthers definitely have all the pieces in place. They tied for the regular season title and won the conference tournament in the MVC last season. There’s no reason why they won’t have a great opportunity to do that again. This is a physical team that will not be pushed around by anyone, mid-major or not. They pushed Purdue to the limit in the first round in last year’s NCAA tournament and they’ll be even tougher to beat this year.
Why they won’t make it: The MVC, as always, will be tough to win. This is going to be especially true this season with multiple teams capable of getting at-large bids. Illinois State and Creighton will be right there with UNI while Southern Illinois and Wichita St may be just one notch below. All of those teams are returning significant amounts of quality talent. They all play the same physical, grind it out style of basketball and they will beat each other up. After a long season last year, it took overtime to earn the trip to the Big Dance last season. Don’t expect any different this season as the Panthers will really have to be up to the challenge if they’re going to be in consideration for an at-large bid.