(11) Northern Iowa Panthers vs (6) Texas Longhorns (-4.5, 124.5 o/u)
The Northern Iowa Panthers (22-12, 19-13-1 ATS) are rolling, but they’ll take the floor as underdogs against the Texas Longhorns (20-12 16-15 ATS) tonight in Oklahoma City (8:50 PM Eastern) when the teams meet in the first round of March Madness.
The Panthers dominated the Missouri Valley Conference tournament and were crowned champs after beating the Evansville Purple Aces in the final. Their run through the conference tournament took their win streak to six straight and they only have one loss in the last 13.
The Panther defense has been the strength of the team all year, allowing 62.9 points per game. It’s been at its best over the current win streak, allowing a paltry 54.2 PPG.
The team managed to knock off some of the nation’s elite this year, including UNC, Iowa State, and Wichita State. Those wins have given them a lot of confidence and some lofty goals heading into the tourney.
“We want to go to the Final Four,” said Northern Iowa Panthers head coach Ben Jacobson to The Gazette.
“We’re going to take what we get. We don’t care what we get,” Bohannon said just before UNI drew Texas in Oklahoma City. “We believe. We’re going to Houston. We’re going.”
Texas played in one of the toughest conferences in college basketball and left the Big 12 with an 11-7 record. They managed to end the year a game over .500 against the spread (16-15 ATS) but were just 7-10 as a favorite.
The good news for the Longhorns is that they’ll have senior center Cameron Ridley back after two months dealing with a broken foot.
“We’re still not exactly sure how much he’s going to be able to play,” Texas coach Shaka Smart told the Associated Press. “We’re hopeful he’s going to be able to give us a significant amount of time, whether it’s 10, 15 or more minutes.”
Ridley played just one minute in Texas’ final non-tournament game.
The Longhorns are 0-7 ATS in their last seven NCAA Tournament games and 0-5 ATS in their last five NCAA Tournament games as a favorite. The Panthers are 12-3-1 ATS in their last 16 neutral site games. Take the upstart Panthers and the points.
Pick: Panthers (+4.5).
(Photo credit: flickr user rrescot (http://www.flickr.com/photos/rrescot/4201320588/) ByRandall Chancellor [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)