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Saturday, February 13, 2010
Is Northern Iowa the new Siena?

By Eamonn Brennan

You already know all about what Siena's loss to Niagara means for the Saints. It's, um, not good. Now, just over 12 hours later, Northern Iowa can feel the Saints' pain.

Bradley hosted Northern Iowa in beautiful Peoria, Ill. today. Things did not go well. The Braves, sitting at .500, took advantage of an inefficient, cold Panthers team -- UNI shot 18-of-55 from the field, including 6-of-30 from behind the arc, committing 16 turnovers in the process.

The loss moves UNI to 22-3, with two wins over top 50 RPI teams in Wichita State and Siena, neither of whom are NCAA tournament locks. UNI's case isn't as dire as Siena's, at least not yet; the Panthers have played a much tougher schedule than the Saints, and a 13-2 record in the MVC is nothing to sniff at. Their RPI of 14 is considerably more impressive than Siena's No. 33 ranking.

But UNI lacks marquee victories, and 15 of their wins have come against teams with RPIs of over 100. A loss to DePaul is a confusing blemish. Assuming UNI won out in the MVC regular season, it was a lock, but this loss to Bradley throws everything into flux, much like Cornell and Siena before them.

Much like those two teams, this is another bummer. Anyone interested in college hoops wants to see how these teams do in the NCAA tournament, and this loss throws another such squad into an uncertain position. Now, it's up to UNI. An MVC conference tourney title may not be a must ... but it sure wouldn't hurt, either.