LARAMIE, Wyo. -
A No. 12 seed has upset a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Championships in 13 of the last 14 seasons. This year's upset will be the goal of the 12th-seeded University of Wyoming men's basketball team when the Cowboys face fifth-seeded Northern Iowa in the tournament's second round on Friday at 11:40 a.m. MT in KeyArena in Seattle. The Pokes (25-9) are receiving votes in both national polls after earning the Mountain West's automatic bid with upsets of Boise State and San Diego State, while the Panthers (30-3) are No. 11 in the AP poll and No. 9 in the coaches after capturing the Missouri Valley's automatic bid with a come-from-behind win over Illinois State. Wyoming fans are encouraged to wear their gameday gold to the game.
The contest will be televised by TBS (Charter: 522, DirecTV: 247) and broadcast on the radio by the Cowboy Sports Network. Fans can follow live stats of the game through the men's basketball Tournament Central page on GoWYO.com. Contact your local cable or satellite provider for further channel information.
A Look at the Matchup
Head coach Larry Shyatt and Wyoming took down second-seeded and 25th-ranked San Diego State, 45-43, in last Saturday's conference title game. The victory was the Cowboys' first MW tournament title in any sport. The fourth-seeded Pokes led by as many as 12 points early in the first half, before the Aztecs held Wyoming without a basket for 12 minutes to go in front by five early in the second half. The two would trade the lead several times down the stretch with SDSU pulling in front 41-40 with 1:36 remaining. That's when a fade-away three from the corner that didn't hit anything but net put the Pokes in front 43-41. SDSU would miss its next two shot attempts, before two free throws with seven seconds left iced the game. Wyoming shot 36 percent (15-of-42) from the field, 40 percent (8-of-20) beyond the arc and 78 percent (7-of-9) at the free-throw line. The Cowboys were outrebounded 30-26 and outscored 18-6 in the paint, but committed just 10 fouls. On the season, Wyoming averages 61.7 points per game on 47 percent from the field and 32 percent beyond the arc. The Cowboys are second in the MW and 59th nationally in field-goal percentage. Defensively, the Pokes allow 56.0 points per game on 40 and 34 percent, respectively. UW's scoring defense is second in the MW and eighth in the NCAA, while its 13.6 fouls per game are first in the conference and second in the nation.
Head coach Ben Jacobson and UNI earned their highest seed in the NCAA tournament in program history thanks to a school-record 30 wins on the season, including a 69-60 win over Illinois State in the Missouri Valley Conference title game. The Panthers are making their sixth NCAA appearance since 2004. Illinois State jumped out quickly on the Panthers and built a 33-15 lead in the title game, as UNI struggled from the floor early and went through a 2-for-20 shooting slump at one point. The Panthers responded with a 32-7 run to turn an 18-point deficit into a seven-point lead at 47-40. The Redbirds tied it again at 47-47, but UNI responded again and ran off eight-straight points to take a 55-47 lead. The Redbirds would get no closer than five points down the stretch. Overall, UNI averages 65.4 points per game on 48 percent from the field and 40 percent beyond the arc, while allowing 54.3 points on 39 and 32 percent, respectively. The Panthers rank fourth in the NCAA in scoring defense and commit 14.4 fouls per game for ninth, while their offense ranks 16th in field-goal percentage and 13th from three.
Each Team's Leaders
Junior guard Josh Adams was named the MW tournament's MVP after averaging 15.7 points and 4.0 rebounds in UW's three contests at the event. On the season he contributes 13.1 points, 3.3 rebounds and a team-high 3.5 assists per game. He ranks third in the MW in assists and eighth in steals at 1.4 per game. Senior forward Larry Nance Jr. was also named to the All-MW Tournament Team. The MW's co-Defensive Player of the Year paces Wyoming at 16.1 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game. His 52 percent from the field ranks 57th in the nation. Senior guard Riley Grabau has 169 threes in his career, just one away from owning second in UW history in the category, and has hit 20 in the last seven games. He contributes 9.1 points and 2.1 rebounds, while his 94 percent at the charity stripe leads the MW and the NCAA. Senior forward Derek Cooke Jr. adds 8.1 points and 6.0 rebounds, thanks in part to 72 percent from the field this season. 63 of his 112 made baskets have been dunks. Senior guard Charles Hankerson Jr. rounds out UW's probable starters at 6.6 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.6 assists per contest.
Senior forward Seth Tuttle was named the MVC's Player of the Year and the MVC tournament's Most Outstanding Player, as he paces UNI at 15.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game. He ranks fifth in the NCAA at 62 percent from the field and is the only Panther to average in double-figure points. Seven other Panthers contribute between five and eight points per game. UNI has used the same starting lineup of Tuttle, senior forward Marvin Singleton, sophomore guard Jeremy Morgan, junior guard Matt Bohannon and senior guard Deon Mitchell in all 33 games this season.
About the Series
Wyoming is 3-1 all-time with UNI, including 1-0 on a neutral court. The Panthers earned a 72-54 home win the last meeting between the two programs on Dec. 23, 2009. Afam Muojeke led the Cowboys with 20 points in that game. UNI led 34-33 at halftime, but outscored the Pokes by 17 in the second half and forced 17 Wyoming turnovers.
A win would advance Wyoming to face the winner of Louisville and UC Irvine.