University of Texas-Arlington (7-1) at University of Northern Iowa (6-2)
The University of Texas-Arlington Mavericks will head on the road to play the University of Northern Iowa Panthers tonight. This is a great matchup featuring two mid-major conference teams that have big NCAA tournament aspirations this year.
The Mavericks are currently +4-point underdogs on the road. The game total over-under is set at 135.5. Tipoff is scheduled for 5:00 PM PST from the McLeod Center in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
The Texas-Arlington Mavericks had a very strong team last season. They won 27 games and took the Sun Belt regular season championship title. But alas, with small conference college basketball, if you don’t win your conference tournament you will have a very tough time getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.
The Mavericks failed to take the Sun Belt championship and were left out of the big dance. That’s the bad news. The good news? They have returned almost all of their contributors from last season and have their eyes set on a deep run in March.
When you get your NCAA bracket this season and are looking for the twelve-five upset, look no further than the UT-Arlington Mavericks. They are loaded with upperclassmen that know how to win games.
None are better than NBA caliber player, Kevin Hervey. Hervey is one of the more underrated players in the nation. This guy can absolutely play and nobody knows his name outside of Arlington. When the senior forward decided to forgo the NBA draft after last season many knew that the expectations would be very high for the Mavericks this season.
The decision to return looks like it is working out great for Hervey. All of his stats are up and he is leading a very good Mavericks team. Hervey is averaging 23 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 1.7 steals a game. All while shooting 40% from beyond the arc and 90% from the charity stripe. Those are elite stats for any college basketball player, I don’t care what conference you get them in.
Northern Iowa has had its share of NCAA tournament excitement. Who could forget when the Panthers made it all the way to the NCAA Sweet 16? Led by the cold-blooded shooting of Ali Farokhmanesh jacking up threes from all the court.
The Panthers have made the tournament the last two season as well, both times winning a game in the big dance. All told, the Panthers have made the dance seven out of the last thirteen years. They are no stranger to playing big games in March.
The Missouri Valley conference is a little down this year after seeing some defections of good programs the last several years. But it is still competitive and I always love backing a Valley team in the tournament for an upset or two.
Valparaiso is still undefeated at 9-0 and Loyola-Chicago just got one of the biggest upsets of the year last night when they went on the road to Florida and shocked the Gators. They can play ball in the Missouri Valley.
This is a great college basketball game. Both teams are well put together and I expect both teams to hear their names called on Selection Sunday this year.
I just have to wonder how the Panthers are going to slow down Kevin Hervey. He has been a beast in every game so far this season and the only loss for the Mavericks was on the road to a very solid Alabama team. That game came down to the last possession and Arlington had led most of the way.
The Panthers are good too though. Their two losses are to UNC and Villanova, there is certainly no shame in losing those games. They also have decent wins against UNLV, SMU, and NC State so far this season.
In a game where all things seem to be just about equal, I am going to take the points. The Mavericks are too well coached and are too experienced to get blown out. Hervey and his team full of seniors are going to be competitive against any team in the country this year.
I expect this game to come down to the last few possessions, and if I had to pick a winner, I would say the Panthers find a way to squeak this out at home, but I am taking the road team and the points. Give me the UT-Arlington Mavericks +4 points tonight!