We'll have much more on Northern Iowa and the keys to the match up with Texas, but here are a few instant reactions to the draw:
* Which UNI team will show up to play Texas on Friday? The one that knocked off North Carolina and Iowa State in the non-conference season, or the one that lost six out of seven in January? The Panthers have been incredibly up and down this season, but they seem to be cresting at the right time. After their January swoon dropped them to 10-11 overall and 2-6 in the MVC, the Panthers ripped off 11 wins in their final 12 games, including three straight to capture the MVC Tournament Championship.
* Ben Jacobson plays a seven-man rotation, which must have Shaka Smart and his staff thinking hard about whether to try to make this an up-and-down game of HAVOC. Northern Iowa will certainly do their part to combat that, as they play at one of the most deliberate paces in all of Division 1. The key for the Panthers? Avoiding fouls: UNI held opponents to the second lowest free throw rate in the entire country (23.6). Texas and its 39.6 FT Rate will put that to the test.
* Both UNI and Texas are very experienced clubs. The Panthers are led by senior point guard Wes Washpun, and he's joined in the starting rotation by two more seniors and a junior. The Longhorns, of course, start three seniors (Ibeh/Ridley, Lammert, and Felix) and are led by junior point guard Isaiah Taylor.
* The battle of the point guards is the key match up to watch in this one. The Panthers are led by dynamic point guard Wes Washpun, and you have to wonder whether Shaka Smart is going to ask Isaiah Taylor and his bad foot to defend... well, this:
Like Zay, UNI's point guard isn't a threat to start lighting it up from the outside (just 29% for the year on threes), but he's got a great first step, he's aggressive with his penetration, he's extraordinarily athletic, and he can finish and draw fouls when he gets to the cup.
* Our halfcourt defense will be tested by UNI's motion offense, and that's worrisome given how lousy we've been in that regard over the last month. The Panthers run a motion offense comparable to what Self runs at Kansas, and our defense on the motion screen game had better be a lot crisper than it has been or we're going to be hoping that UNI has a bad day shooting open shots. Not something you want to bet your season on...
More thoughts on UNI and the match up to come. What's your take on Texas' opening round opponent?