BGOC: Northern Iowa at Wichita State

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There are so many great games happening this weekend, why wait until Saturday to start talking about them? And this Missouri Valley showdown is one that’s so big, ESPN is sending its College GameDay crew there.

Northern Iowa and Wichita State are two tournament teams on a collision course for the regular season finale with first place in the MVC on the line. The highly-touted rematch will tip-off at 1 p.m. CT Saturday at the Charles Koch Arena in Wichita and will be televised on ESPN.

Back in January, Northern Iowa crushed Wichita State in Cedar Falls, snapping State’s 27-conference win streak. Before that 70-54 beatdown, the last time the Shockers incurred a MVC loss was all the way back in March 2013.

Since then, however, neither team has lost a game. Winners of 13-straight No. 10 Northern Iowa will attempt the season sweep of No. 11 Wichita State — a team that’s currently on a six-game win streak of its own.

In January, the Panthers shot 60 percent as a team, going 24-40 from the field. The Shockers will be looking for redemption and the Wichita crowd could be a factor, so don’t expect a repeat performance from UNI.

Why You Should Care

Both teams are bound for the tournament and have enough talent to make a run.  We have seen the Shockers go as far as the Final Four in recent years (2013).  UNI has had limited success in the tournament; its most recent appearance was a two-win tourney run in 2010. Panther fans will tell you this is the best UNI team they have ever seen.

What to Watch

UNI’s senior forward Seth Tuttle had a career day against Wichita State back in January. Tuttle is averaging over 15 PPG and nearly 7 boards per game.  He is an emotional leader with a high motor.

Key Matchups

The Shockers present a matchup nightmare in their backcourt.  Both guards Fred Vanfleet and Ron Baker are finalists for the Bob Cousy award.  Tuttle and Baker are Oscar Robinson Award finalists.  Tuttle can do damage inside and out, and Baker is one of the MVC’s premier shooters.

Prediction

I give the edge to the Shockers in this one.  UNI played near flawless ball in their first meeting, and I just don’t see that happening on the road.  I’ve got Wichita topping the Panthers in a close one, 68-65.

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