Northern Iowa (19-12) vs. Illinois State (18-12)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, March 2, 3:35 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Scottrade Center (19,150) -- St. Louis, Missouri. Television: FSN-MW, IN, KC, CSN-CHI. Home Record: UNI 12-3, Illinois State 14-3. Away Record: UNI 4-9, Illinois State 3-8. Neutral Record: UNI 2-0, Illinois State 1-1. Conference Record: UNI 9-9, Illinois State 9-9. Series Record: Illinois State leads, 34-26.
GAME NOTES: The 2012 Missouri Valley Conference Tournament moves to the quarterfinal round today, as the fourth-seeded Illinois State Redbirds face the fifth-seeded Northern Iowa Panthers at Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
Northern Iowa finished the season 19-12 overall and tied for third with four others teams in the conference with identical 9-9 league ledgers, earning the fifth-seed by virtue of the tie-breaker. It marks the fifth top-three finish for the Panthers since joining the MVC in time for the 1991-92 season. They are coming into the tournament on a high note, having won their last two regular-season games against Southern Illinois and Bradley, respectively. UNI is 16-16 all-time in MVC Tournament play, although it has had a lot of success in recent years, winning the title in 2004, 2009 and 2010.
Illinois State had a very similar regular season as Northern Iowa, finishing with an 18-12 overall mark and it was among the five-way tie for third place with a 9-9 record in the MVC. The Redbirds earned the higher seed by having a better record against the four other teams. They won two of their last three to close out the regular season, and they outperformed preseason predictions, as they were projected to finish eighth in the MVC preseason poll.
These two teams split the season series this year with each team winning on its home floor. Though Illinois State hold a 34-26 lead in the all-time series, Northern Iowa has taken three of the past four meetings.
The majority of Northern Iowa's success this season has come as a result of its top-rated defense, which allows opponents to score just 62 ppg and it has given up 63 points or fewer in its last seven wins. The impressive defensive effort has been able to help mask a less-than-stellar offensive attack, which generates just 65.9 ppg on 43.8 percent field goal efficiency. Anthony James is the only Panther to average double digits in the scoring column (13.3 ppg), although he struggles from the floor at just 39.6 percent. Seth Tuttle adds 9.4 ppg to the mix and he is also the MVC's top shooter, draining an incredible 66.2 percent of his field goal attempts. Jake Koch is one of the most well-rounded players in the country, as he is one of only nine Division I players to have 30 or more three-pointers made (35), offensive rebounds (34), assists (81), blocks (32) and steals (30).
Illinois State has had a pretty balanced team this year, ranking fourth in both scoring offense (68.6 ppg) and scoring defense (64.5 ppg), which results in the MVC's third-best scoring margin. While the shooting output was lackluster in the regular-season finale against Bradley (.354), they were able to hang on to win by forcing the Braves to shoot a woeful 30.5 percent from the field. Jackie Carmichael tallied 16 points and 14 rebounds in the win for his 11th double-double of the year. Carmichael leads the team in scoring (13.6 ppg) and is the league's top rebounder (9.4 rpg), and he was named to the All- MVC Second Team as well as the MVC's Most Improved Team after averaging just 9.8 ppg and 5.4 rpg during his sophomore campaign. Tyler Brown provides solid support from the outside for ISU, netting 12.8 ppg while draining 61 three- pointers on the year.
These two teams are evenly matched and you can expect a tight game from the opening tip. Carmichael has the potential to wreak havoc in the low post where Northern Iowa doesn't have much to match up with him, thus giving the Redbirds the edge they'll need to advance.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Illinois State 67, Northern Iowa 65
03/02 10:32:28 ET
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