Bradley at Northern Iowa (Missouri Valley)
McLeod Center - Cedar Falls, IA
8:05 PM EST
A lot of people don't like when things don't go according to prognostication -- folks can get downright prickly in some instances. Here's some stuff that has defied simple prediction: gas prices, the career arc of Lifehouse
, and the 2008-09 Missouri Valley men's basketball season. One goes up when its leading indicators go down, one has a less likely comeback story than Kajagoogoo
, and one is playing out with all the consistency of nightly Pick 5 drawings.
If you had Northern Iowa (12-6, 6-1) as the MVC's league leader after seven games, please raise your hand (or use it to put on another scarf -- Cedar Falls is cold, you know). The Panthers, maddeningly inconsistent on defense and more than a little anonymous a month ago, have been a truly stop-able force since the calendar turned. They're 5-for-2009 during an overall six-game win streak, their only Valley loss coming in double OT in the league opener against Indiana State
. No team has shot better than 44 percent against UNI during that stretch, and Drake was blown out
of its own building -- one is reminded of the 2005-06 team that shut down opponents anytime, anywhere. But there's been a lot of defense in the Valley this year, and UNI is winning games because it's the only team that's scoring... in an offensively-challenged conference, this team leads the other nine on points with 72.4 per game. Five Panthers all hover around 10 ppg, led by sophomore guard Kwadzo Ahelegbe
. The Minnesota native scored 2.6 ppg off the bench last season and was shaky in the early going, but he's hit double digits in seven of his last eight games and leads the team with 11.4 ppg.
Tonight's opponent is Bradley (11-7, 5-2), a team that was "too [insert weakness of your choice here]" to win the Valley before the season. But the Braves have emerged as the premier defensive squad, allowing just 38.7 percent of MVC opponents' shots to fall. It's a young team that plays a little sloppy, turning the ball over at a 22 percent clip, but having a 6-5 senior scorer like Theron Wilson
has helped BU make the most of possessions. He's currently at 14.3 ppg (which translates to about 20 in any other league, thanks to the Valley's depressed scoring economy), and is coming off a 22-point, 16-rebound performance in a revenge loss at Southern Illinois
. He's been one of the better midsize rebounders in mid-majordom as well, collecting 7.4 boards per game. And the team's had recent success in this town, winning two of the last three at UNI. Should be a good one, unless you like scoring.Basketball State Preview/Box