WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi did a question-and-answer session with Andrew Logue, who covers Northern Iowa men’s basketball for the Des Moines Register, about Friday’s NCAA Tournament Second Round game between No. 12 seed Wyoming and No. 5 seed and 10th-ranked Northern Iowa.
The game starts at 11:40 p.m. MT and will be televised on TBS.
Follow on Twitter: @AndrewMLogue
How much similarity do you see between Northern Iowa and Wyoming? Both are among the top 10 nationally in scoring defense, but aside from that, what else do you see?
The similarities are philosophical. Last season, Northern Iowa allowed 69.3 points per game (highest of coach Ben Jacobson’s nine seasons), and finished with a 16-15 record (the fewest wins of Jacobson’s tenure). This season, the Panthers went back to their original blue print. Both these rosters were assembled to fit a specific approach to the game. That’s why Jacobson says he began following the Cowboys from afar, when their defensive numbers “popped out.”
At 30-3 there hasn’t been many times the Panthers have struggled, but when they have, what have teams been able to do to beat them?
If 6-foot-8 senior Seth Tuttle struggles, the Panthers have problems. He was limited against Virginia Commonwealth, and Evansville has a deceptively good defensive player in the post. There have also been times when UNI struggled with quicker guards (Illinois State) who take defenders off the dribble and get to the basket for layups. So, if you’ve got big bodies in the paint, flex your muscle. And if you’ve got a talented point guard, attack.
How do you see the match-up between Tuttle and Wyoming forward Larry Nance Jr.?
It’ll be the matchup we all talk about. And then during the game, they’ll probably neutralize each other. I can see Nance having something to prove, considering the attention Tuttle has received. Then again, Seth really is a student of the game and had watched Larry play several times before Selection Sunday. He was giving us a scouting report on Wyoming minutes after the bracket was unveiled. If Tuttle is motivated, he can take UNI to another level. Just hit rewind on the win over Wichita State.
What other match-ups in this game intrigue you and figure to be focal points in this game?
The Panthers have shot 39.7 percent from 3-point range this season, and have eight guys who have taken more than 30 attempts. Wyoming is shooting 32.3 percent from behind the arc. Will Northern Iowa playing out West, in a foreign arena and in the role of a favorite even those numbers out? That’ll be interesting to see.
How do you see this game unfolding, and who wins?
I really think it will come down to the final minute, with both teams hovering around the 55-point range. I think UNI wins, though. Historically, mid-majors who draw a lot of attention during the regular season tend to falter in the NCAA Tournament (Creighton with Kyle Korver, Drake in 2008, Gonzaga on several occasions). But I think the Panthers are a savvy group, and the loss at Wichita State got them to re-focus.
Cowboys game day
Game: No. 12 seed Wyoming (25-9) vs. No. 5 seed Northern Iowa (30-3)
Where: NCAA Tournament East Regional Second Round, Key Arena, Seattle
When: 11:40 a.m., Friday
Radio: KFBC (1240 AM) Cheyenne; KCGY (95.1 FM) Laramie
Tickets: NCAA.com/tickets; stubhub.com or vividseats.com