99 in 99: #60 Northern Iowa Panthers


Ali Farokhmanesh SI

Northern Iowa wore Cinderella’s slipper in the 2010 NCAA Tournament, knocking off top-seeded Kansas in the second round and busting most people’s brackets.  Do not expect a repeat performance from the Panthers this season.

The Sports Bank’s “99 in 99” ranks the 72 power conference college basketball teams and top 27 mid-majors.  Our countdown will lead right up to the start of the season and provide you will all the in-depth information about the top teams in the game.  Click here if you missed #61-#99.

By: David Kay

Northern Iowa Panthers (1st, 15-3 in MVC, 30-5 overall)

Projected Depth Chart

F/C: Lucas O’Rear (Sr)/Austin Pehl (So)
F: Jake Koch (So)/Nathan Buss (Fr)
G/F: Kerwin Dunham (Sr)/Chip Rank (Fr)/Max Martino (Fr)
G: Johnny Moran (Jr)/Mark Sonnen (So)/B.J. Ray (Fr)
PG: Kwadzo Ahelegbe (Sr)/Anthony James (So)/Matt Morrison (Fr)

Gone: F-Adam Koch, C-Jordan Eglseder, SG-Ali Farokhmanesh

2010-2011 Outlook:
While they are not yet in Butler-territory, the secret is out on Northern Iowa who captured their second straight Missouri Valley Conference title and won the hearts of many by pulling perhaps the biggest upset of the college basketball season when they knocked off Kansas in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.  Now Ben Jacobson faces the challenge of keeping that momentum going while having to replace three talented, veteran leaders.

In losing Ali Farokmanesh, Jordan Eglseder, and Adam Koch, the Panthers lose 53.2% of their scoring and 44.8% of their rebounds.  Point guard Kwadzo Ahelegbe is back to run the show and will be joined in the backcourt by fellow returning start Jonny Moran.  Experienced reserve Kerwin Dunham will likely step into the starting five and will be asked to take on a larger role.  Mark Sonnen and Anthony James both saw limited action last season and will compete with four freshmen for minutes off the bench.

Lucas O'Rear sideburnsJacobson doesn’t have a lot of size up-front as only three players stand taller than 6-6.  Jake Koch will slide into the spot that his older brother played last season while under-sized, but physical Lucas O’Rear will provide the muscle down low.  Austin Pehl is an unproven commodity and freshman Matt Morrison needs to add some meat to his skinny frame making the frontcourt depth an area of concern.

The MVC figures to be competitive this season but probably lacks the clear cut favorite of recent years.  UNI has a good chance to battle with Wichita State and Creighton for the top spot, but lacks the valuable experience they have had the past couple of years.  Their November trip to the Carrier Dome will be a terrific early season measuring stick to see if the Panthers have the potential to repeat the magic from a season ago.

Player to Watch: Kwadzo Ahelegbe, PG
The only returning player who averaged more than six points per game last season, Ahelegbe now becomes the go-to player after sharing that responsibility the past three seasons with the seniors who have left.  While accepting that responsibility, Ahelegbe must also improve his decision-making as last season he had more turnovers than assists.  With uncertainty about who else can fill in the lost scoring load, every Panther possession will need to be valued.

Key Non-Conference Games:
11/12 at Syracuse
12/1 vs. Iowa State
12/7 at Iowa
12/22 vs. Indiana (Las Vegas Classic)
12/23 vs. New Mexico/Colorado (Las Vegas Classic)

Other 99 in 99’s:
#61 Creighton
#62 Clemson
#63 Cincinnati
#64 Texas Tech
#65 Miami, FL
#66 Charlotte
#67 UTEP
#68 Ole Miss
#69 George Mason
#70 Colorado
#71 Weber State
#72 Alabama
#73 Bradley
#74 Central Florida
#75 Wake Forest
#76 Georgia Tech
#77 USC
#78 Oklahoma State
#79 Cal
#80 Oklahoma
#81 Virginia
#82 South Carolina
#83 Indiana
#84 Stanford
#85 Oregon
#86 Penn State
#87 South Florida
#88 Arkansas
#89 Boston College
#90 LSU
#91 Providence
#92 Michigan
#93 Oregon State
#94. Nebraska
#95. Auburn
#96. DePaul
#97. Iowa State
#98. Rutgers
#99. Iowa


  1. UNI sucks! May they be last in the MVC!

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