The UNI Panthers open a bid for a second straight Missouri Valley Conference tournament title when they hook-up with Southwest Missouri State in Saturday’s quarterfinals in St. Louis. Every win will help their cause but the Panthers have a good shot at an NCAA at-large spot and one of the reasons has been the play of forward Eric Coleman who was named the Valley’s freshman of the year. Coleman says the first season was a big transition from high school to college. He says the speed and strength of other players were the main differences.Coleman says coming into the season his goal was to help take pressure off an experienced guard court. He says he knew they lost a couple of good players and he says one of his main strengths coming in was rebounding, but he knew he would have to score more. Coleman says he has enjoyed playing a big role in his first season. He says he wasn’t surprised, and says it had a lot to do with his coaches and teammates putting him in a good position. He says he felt like he fit in and that made it easier for him.The Panthers are 21-9 overall.