The Northern Iowa basketball team opens the season this weekend at the Earth Grains Classic in St. Louis. The Panthers face Alabama on Saturday before playing Air Force on Sunday. U-N-I coach Sam Weaver says Alabama is a great opponent to start the season against. The Crimson Tide return a number of key players from last year’s team that finished 17-15 and advanced to the N-I-T.Weaver says Air Force is not as strong as Alabama but the Falcons will be difficult to play.Weaver says playing in the classic is a great opportunity for the program.