Northern Iowa (19-13) at Saint Joseph's (20-13)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, March 14, 7:15 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Hagan Arena (4,200) -- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Television: ESPN3.com. NIT Record: Northern Iowa 0-0, Saint Joseph's 16-14. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The Saint Joseph's Hawks return to the postseason for the first time since 2008 as they earned the second seed and will host the seventh- seeded Northern Iowa Panthers in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament.
Northern Iowa will be making its fourth consecutive trip to the postseason after NCAA Tournament appearances in 2009 and 2010, and a trip to the CIT last season. The Panthers finished with a 9-9 mark in the Missouri Valley Conference, which had them in a five-way tie for third place. At 19-13 overall, a win tonight would give UNI 20 wins for the fourth consecutive year, adding to the MVC's longest active streak.
Saint Joseph's enjoyed a return to relevance in the Atlantic 10 this season, going 20-13 and 9-7 in conference. The Hawks won their first-round game in the A-10 tourney against Charlotte, but lost in the quarterfinals to eventual champion St. Bonaventure, 71-68. SJU last played in the NIT in 2006, when it won a first-round home game versus Rutgers.
This bouts marks the first-ever meeting between Northern Iowa and Saint Joseph's on the hardwood.
Northern Iowa has just one player who averages double figures in points in Anthony James (13.3 ppg), who was named to the All-MVC honorable mention squad for the second straight season. Falling just shy of double digits is Seth Tuttle (9.2 ppg), and he was named the league's Freshman of the Year. He also led the league in field goal percentage (.652), becoming the first freshman in MVC history to do so. While the offense leaves something to be desired (65.2 ppg), the Panthers' defensive effort has been strong all year, ranking first in the conference in scoring defense (61.8 ppg), while also falling on the positive side of turnover margin (+1.41).
Phil Martelli's bunch had an outstanding year in terms of individual honors, as five Hawks received at least one Atlantic 10 honor, the most in program history. Their impressive offense (72.2 ppg) is paced by one of the best scoring duos in the league in Carl Jones and Langston Galloway. Jones leads the team in scoring (16.8 ppg) and steals (1.2 spg) while adding 3.2 apg, and Galloway nets 15.8 ppg and was the A-10's most prolific three-point shooter, draining 90 treys at an incredible 47.4 percent clip. Ronald Roberts, Jr. (10.9 ppg, 6.0 rpg) does all of his damage from off the bench and earned the A-10 Sixth Man of the Year award, and C.J. Aiken ranks fourth in the nation in blocked shots (3.6 bpg) and was named the conference's Defensive Player of the Year. Rounding out the SJU attack is Halil Kanacevic, who brings stability to the front court with 8.3 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 3.7 apg and 1.7 bpg.
While Northern Iowa has a defensive attack that should be able to slow the Hawks down slightly, the Panthers don't nearly have enough firepower to keep up with even a subdued SJU attack, especially on the road.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Saint Joseph's 70, Northern Iowa 62
03/14 10:34:12 ET