The University of Northern Iowa men’s basketball team will be the 12th seed in the West Region of the NCAA tournament and their opponent will be fifth seeded Purdue on Thursday at 1:30 P.M. The Panthers won the automatic berth one week ago by winning the Missouri Valley Conference tournament,but U.N.I. coach Ben Jacobson says it didn’t diminish the experience.
Jacobson says it has been a great week, and even better since they knew they were in, and he says there was the same excitement as the two years they got at-large bids. "It’s really something to see you name come up on that screen, that’s what these guys work so hard for, even though you know you’re in, that’s a great, great feeling," Jacobson says. Jacobson talked about heading thousands of miles west for the tournament.
Jacobson says he would have preferred to be in Minneapolis or Kansas City, so more of the UNI fans could go to the game, but other than that, he had no preference. Jacobson says he knows a little about Purdue. Jacobson says he’s seen parts of their games, and has seen enough to know a little big about them. He also has an idea about what Purdue will do, as their coach coach Matt Painter’s experience at Southern Illinois. Jacobson says Purdue is talented and they’ll play hard.
Adam Koch watched the NCAA selection show along with his teammates in Cedar Falls. He says he was really excited, as he says they weren’t sure who they would play, but it was exciting to see their name on TV. Ali Farokhmanesh grew up in the state of Washington, moving to Iowa City after his sophomore year in high school, so he likes the idea of going to the west coast.
Farokmanesh says he’s probably the only Panther who’s excited about that, and he is "really excited" as he has lot of friends out west and has already heard form them. He says knowing where they will play was important, as they knew anyone they’d face would be tough. He says at this point all the teams are going to be good and be a tough matchup.
U.N.I. comes into the tournament at 23-10 overall and 14-4 Missouri Valley Conference. Purdue is 25-9 and finished 11-7 the Big Ten Conference. The winner will face the winner of the Washington-Mississippi State game on Saturday. This is the fifth NCAA tournament appearance for the Panthers, and fourth in the last six years. U.N.I. also qualified in 1990, 2004, 2005 and 2006.