Panthers spring back into action


UNI Athletics

Panther Softball will be one of many sports returning in the spring semester

COLIN HORNING, Sports Editor

This past semester has seen a total lack of Panthers sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Last summer, the Missouri Valley Conference decided it was in the best interest of the safety of student-athletes, parents and campus communities to postpone fall athletics seasons to the spring semester, at that point which will see proper health guidelines put into place. However, UNI athletics will return perhaps sooner than many of us realize. The first Panther sporting events will return in just one short week and will slowly but surely pick back up over winter break before moving into full swing by the spring.

On Wednesday, Nov. 25, the Northern Iowa men’s basketball team will play their first games since last March in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament. The Panther men will play in an eight-team field hosted by the University of Nebraska at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Neb. The tournament is scheduled to take place from Nov. 25-29 and will be played in a tournament-style of play. Other teams in attendance along with UNI will be Louisiana State, Saint Louis, Western Kentucky, San Francisco, Nevada, Illinois State and the host school University of Nebraska. Three teams in the tournament (Northern Iowa, LSU and Saint Louis) all received pre-season Associated Press top-25 votes.

The tournament will give the Panthers a strong non-conference slate to begin the season. Along with playing other mid-major Division 1 schools, the Panthers will play a Big Ten school (Nebraska), an SEC school (LSU) and a Nevada team which has become a consistent school in the NCAA Tournament. UNI typically plays somewhat of a weaker non-conference schedule, which can sometimes come back to be a hindrance on the team’s resume when it comes to being selected for the NCAA Tournament. But by scheduling a strong pre-season slate with well-respected schools in competition, the Panthers can prove that they are a legitimate team come tournament time, as well as bolster their team by playing tough competition early on before moving into the Missouri Valley schedule.

Following their season-opening tournament in Nebraska, the Panthers will have some time off before returning to the floor on Dec. 9 in Richmond, Va. against the Richmond Spiders. Their first home game will be against the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay on Dec. 12 in the McLeod Center, before traveling to Huntington, W.Va. for another non-conference road game against Marshall University.

Following another break for the holidays, the Panthers begin Missouri Valley Conference play on Dec. 30 against Missouri State. Among other home games the Panther men will play over the holiday break will be Jan. 6 against Illinois State, Jan. 9 against Evansville, Jan. 20 against Bradley and Jan. 23 against Valparaiso. By the time students are scheduled to return to campus on Jan. 25 the men’s basketball season will be more than halfway completed.

Along with the men’s basketball, the women’s basketball team will also get their season underway. The Panther women will start on Nov. 28 in the McLeod Center against Creighton University, before hitting the road to Fargo, N.D. for a game against North Dakota State. Another road game on Dec. 6 has UNI going to Wichita, Kan. for a matchup against Wichita State. They will finally return home on Dec. 12 against South Dakota State University.

The Panther women’s team will play three conference home games over the winter break. These will be on Jan. 7 versus Valparaiso, Jan. 9 against Loyola-Chicago and Drake University on Jan. 15. Similar to the men’s team, the women’s basketball season will be more than halfway completed once students are scheduled to return to campus on Jan. 25.

The spring semester will see the return of every other fall sport, most notably football on Feb. 25. Other sports returning to action will be volleyball, track & field, wrestling, women’s soccer, softball, swimming & diving, golf, tennis and cross country.