Northern Iowa Panthers
Record: 25-7 (11-7 Missouri Valley Conference)
Head Coach: Ben Jacobson (10th season)
Season Recap: No ranked team has defeated Northern Iowa this year. Thanks to a stalwart defense that is conceding only 62.9 points per contest—the 11th-best mark in the nation—head coach Ben Jacobson’s squad has pulled off three huge upsets this season, beating then-No. 1 North Carolina 71-67 Nov. 21, then-No. 5 Iowa State 81-79 Dec. 19 and then-No. 25 Wichita State 53-50 Feb. 13.
Paced by senior guard Wes Washpun, the fourth-seeded Panthers upset top-seeded Wichita State 57-52 in overtime March 5 in the Missouri Valley Conference semifinals and then beat second-seeded Evanston 56-54 one day later to capture their fifth conference title. Washpun and junior guard Jeremy Morgan—who is averaging 5.1 rebounds and 1.9 steals per contest—will look to lead the way for Northern Iowa in its eighth appearance in the Big Dance.
How they make a run: Washpun and Morgan continue delivering standout efforts on both ends of the court and keep the Panthers’ impressive momentum going. Northern Iowa is 12-1 since Jan. 23, when it fell to Illinois State 76-67, and that record continues as the Panthers pull off another classic March Madness upset.
How they falter: The Panthers’ offense is not effective and falls short in the team's upset bid against sixth-seeded Texas. Despite having one of the stingiest defenses in the country, Washpun and his teammates are averaging only 68.0 points per contest—the 284th-ranked scoring attack in the nation—and shoot just 45.7 percent from the floor.