Northern Iowa loves playing in St. Louis. And tonight's Sweet 16 match up against Michigan State just happens to be in the Gateway to the West city.
The Panthers have won the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament in St. Louis the last two years. It's really their home away from home. Even though this game is played in a different venue (the Edward Jones Dome), Northern Iowa will appreciate the familiarity of St. Louis
The fans enjoy it too because they are within driving distance. Look for a huge Panther gathering tonight.
I look for Northern Iowa to perform well. This veteran, no-nonsense club will be ready. The Panthers need to control the pace because Michigan State will want to run them out of the arena. The Spartans will also try to pressure them to submission. Northern Iowa needs to withstand that and get the basketball in their half-court offense.
The Panthers strength is their defense. But they must play outstanding offense too. They need sold three-point shooting and their usual success at the free throw line.
Northern Iowa wants to have a chance for the victory near the end of the game. This tilt promises to be a war against a tournament-tested Big Ten opponent.
And the Panthers need to seize the opportunity. With two victories already in the tourney, they hope to continue to surprise the expects. This Northern Iowa team is going where no other Panther squad has been before and there is no reason to interrupt the march now.
The whole state of Iowa is cheering for the Panthers. I sense most of America will support them too.
Can the Panthers really beat Michigan State?