UNI men’s basketball looks to improve off 16-16 season

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UNI men’s basketball looks to improve off 16-16 season

The UNI men's basketball team went 8-4 in non-conference play last season before struggling against Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) opponents, going 7-11 in MVC play and finishing the year 16-16.

The UNI men's basketball team went 8-4 in non-conference play last season before struggling against Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) opponents, going 7-11 in MVC play and finishing the year 16-16.

Courtesy Photo/UNI Athletics

The UNI men's basketball team went 8-4 in non-conference play last season before struggling against Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) opponents, going 7-11 in MVC play and finishing the year 16-16.

Courtesy Photo/UNI Athletics

Courtesy Photo/UNI Athletics

The UNI men's basketball team went 8-4 in non-conference play last season before struggling against Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) opponents, going 7-11 in MVC play and finishing the year 16-16.

JERRIUS CAMPBELL, Sports Writer

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The race to March Madness begins this month for the UNI Panthers as they look to improve on a 16-16 season a year ago.

There are high hopes for the Panthers as they bring in star talent from the recruiting class of 2018, a class that includes former Cedar Falls High School standout AJ Green. Green currently holds the all-time leading scorer record at Cedar Falls, leading the Tigers to a state championship in 2018, averaging 26 points a game.

The Panthers team also brought in a number of transfers for the coming season. One of those transfers is Tray Croft from Iowa Central Community College. As a guard for the Iowa Central Tritons, Croft was named the National Junior Collegiate Athletic Association Division II Player of the Year. In two years, Croft broke the single-season scoring record with 1,626 total points.

Returning players for UNI on the court include stars such as Tywhon Pickford, Isiah Brown, Austin Phyfe, Lincoln Conrey, Miles Wentzien, Wyatt Lohaus and Spencer Haldeman.

Pickford is coming off an outstanding freshman season as UNI’s leading rebounder last season. He was named to the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) All-Freshman team last season and looks to take over a major role on the men’s team.

Excitement lingers while fans patiently await the start of another Panthers basketball season. The Panther men’s basketball team will kick off the 2018-2019 season playing four non-conference games, starting with their first game on Sunday, Oct. 28 at home in the McLeod Center against the Wartburg Knights.

UNI will also face the Upper Iowa Peacocks, the Bemidji State Beavers and the Texas-Arlington Mavericks, all at home. After their home stand they will play in the Paradise Jam in St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. The event will be held Nov. 16-24.

This eight-team tournament includes teams from Eastern Kentucky, Kennesaw University, Missouri, Kansas State, Old Dominion, Oregon State and Penn.

On Saturday, Dec. 1, the Panthers will play in the U.S Bank Stadium Classic in Minneapolis, Minnesota against the South Dakota State Jackrabbits. The stadium is  home of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and site of the 2019 Final Four.

MVC action will begin for the Panthers on  Wednesday, Jan. 2 in Peoria, Illinois against the Bradley Braves.

Crucial challenges for UNI will include the Missouri State Bears, Indiana State Sycamores and the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers.

Last season the Loyola won the MVC regular season and tournament title en route to a run to the Final Four.

Conference games will have to be a key focus for the Panthers. Road games will also be crucial to success for the Panthers as they did not do well on the road last season with a 1-9 road record.

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