Top 3 upcoming games to watch

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Top 3 upcoming games to watch

TONI FORTMANN

TONI FORTMANN

TONI FORTMANN

JACOB POTTER, Sports Editor

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Basketball season will be here before we know it with exciting matchups against West Virginia, Bradley and Loyola.  The Panthers will look to gain national exposure versus West Virginia, revenge against Bradley and experience facing Loyola.

UNI’s first home game is Nov. 5 against Old Dominion University from Norfolk, Virginia.  The Cats will host six more home games in 2019, but won’t get into conference play until the calendar flips to 2020.  Here are the three must-watch games of the season:

UNI vs. West Virginia, Nov. 26 in Cancún

UNI is no stranger to facing and taking down elite college basketball programs going back to the 2010 Sweet 16 run that saw the Panthers shock the nation after Ali Farokhmanesh and company defeated the No. 1 ranked Kansas Jayhawks.  The 2009-10 team will be enshrined in the UNI Athletics Hall of Fame on Sep. 21 in the McLeod Center, and will be honored during halftime when UNI Football hosts Idaho State.

The Panthers have scheduled games against top college basketball teams in the past such as North Carolina in 2015, 2016 and 2017, as well as playing the 2017-18 national champion Villanova Wildcats in the Bahamas on Nov. 24, 2017.  UNI’s lone win in those four matchups came when Roy Williams and the No. 1 ranked Tarheels graced the McLeod Center court with the Panthers walking away victorious, 71-67, on Nov. 21, 2015.

This season, UNI will face off against top Big 12 competition when they take on West Virginia in Cancún, Mexico.  The Mountaineers aren’t the 2010 Final Four team or the 2018 Sweet 16 squad that also faced Villanova in 2017, but head coach Bob Huggins is still at the helm.  Huggins has led West Virginia to nine NCAA tournament bids during his 12 seasons leading the Mountaineers.

The Purple and Gold will gain valuable experience and national attention on CBS Sports against a Big 12 team, as well as experiencing the coveted opportunity to visit Cancún.

Bradley at UNI, Jan. 4 

The 10 returning Panthers will be chomping at the bit to play Bradley for the first time since they let an 18-point lead slip in the MVC championship game.

UNI fell short to the Braves, 57-54, but the Cats gained valuable MVC tournament experience, especially freshman point guard A.J. Green.  The Cedar Falls native racked up 23 points and tallied five assists in the championship game along with hitting several clutch shots throughout the MVC tourney.

The McLeod Center will be rocking when Bradley comes to town as UNI looks to avenge their loss in the championship game.

     The Panthers will also play the Braves on Jan. 18 when they trek through the snow to Peoria, Illinois.

Loyola at UNI, Jan. 26

In recent years, a raucous crowd has filled into the McLeod Center when the Ramblers come to town.

Escaping the cold into a toasty McLeod Center has afforded fans the privilege to witness fiercely competitive games in past years.

Last season was no different when the Ramblers and Panthers fought it out on Feb. 27.  On a cold and snowy night, a nerve-racking, defensive battle saw Loyola walk away with a one-point victory, 56-55.  

The Panthers will play Loyola again on Feb. 15 when they travel to Chicago in the midst of winter.

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