The Northern Iowa Panthers and Drake Bulldogs meet at the Knapp Center in a Missouri Valley matchup in Des Moines. Drake may not be the best team in Iowa, but they might be the second best over Iowa State. The Bulldogs return home after suffering their first loss in the 2020-21 season. After defeating Valparaiso on the road, 80-77, Drake dropped the second half of the two-game series by a score of 74-57 on Sunday.
Drake did not look interested in that game. You kind of thought that Drake would have a game eventually where they slack off and don’t bring their top form to the floor. That happened on Sunday at Valparaiso. Despite the loss, Drake still maintains a strong record of 18-1. It might be better to get the loss out of their system now before going into tournament season.
The last time I remember Drake having a season like this was when Kyle Korver’s brother played for Drake in 2007-08. It was their first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 1971, though it was a short stay after losing in the final seconds against Western Kentucky. Drake was upset as the No. 5 seed against the No. 12 Hilltoppers. I think we’ve seen a No. 5 losing to a No. 12 seed somewhere before once or twice.
The concern for Drake is that they haven’t really played anyone yet. They’ve dominated the Missouri Valley, despite the loss against Valparaiso, but haven’t played a ranked team yet. In their lone matchup against a bigger named school, Drake defeated Kansas State to open the season on November 25 with a 80-70 win.
It isn’t anything special over a Kansas State team that isn’t going to the NCAA Tournament, but solid nonetheless. Drake can only play the games that are in front of them. That said, the Bulldogs aren’t a lock to win the Missouri Valley. Loyola Chicago, yep that team from a few years back that went to the Final Four, is barking again and making more noise. They’re 17-3 and 17-3 and 12-1 in the conference versus Drake’s 18-1 and 9-1 in the Missouri Valley.
Northern Iowa heads to Drake with a record of 6-12 and 4-8 in the conference. That doesn’t look great, but the Panthers have at least been fighting hard and competing. That’s something to look at favorably. Northern Iowa is coming off a 70-67 win over Indiana State at home on February 7.
All I remember for Northern Iowa is when they beat Kansas in 2010 to go to the Sweet Sixteen. They beat the No. 1 overall seed as a No. 9 seed for one of the biggest upsets in tournament history. Do you know who Ali Farokhmanesh is? No, but he will go down in history at Northern Iowa. There will be no opportunities for an upset in March this season, but we’ll see what they can do with 18-1 Drake tonight. Head below for our free Northern Iowa vs. Drake pick on February 10, 2021.
Northern Iowa Panthers vs. Drake Bulldogs NCAA Betting Odds:
Northern Iowa vs. Drake Prediction:
The question you have to answer yourself in this matchup is how will Drake respond after their first loss of the season. If Drake gets hung up on the loss and comes home without any focus, then the door is going to be open for a Northern Iowa upset. However, Drake should be able to pull away if they want to play this evening. They are far too potent offensively and stingy defensively to allow the Panthers stay around if that’s the case.
Drake ranks 21st in the NCAA with 81.4 points scored per game. At home they’ve been on fire with 88.6 points scored per game. The Bulldogs should be able to plow through a Northern Iowa defense that has conceded 71.6 points per game for 215th in the country. While Northern Iowa has been playing better defensively recently, just look at their schedule. Through their last five outings, the Panthers have held the opposition to 64.2 points per game. Look at who they’ve played, though. Indiana State twice, Southern Illinois twice, and Coe College.
Against a similar opponent as Drake on the road earlier in the season, Northern Iowa couldn’t keep up and lost against Loyola Chicago, 72-57 and 88-46. I don’t believe Loyola Chicago felt they played good enough in the first meeting, so they came out blazing hot with a 88-46 in the next performance. And Drake isn’t all offense, they can play lockdown defense as well. The Bulldogs are 30th in the NCAA with 63.2 points against per game. At home in Des Moines, that number drops to 60.6 points per game.
Northern Iowa hasn’t had much pop on the road offensively. They’re scoring only 62.6 points per game on the season. Drake should be able to hold them to around 60ish points in this contest. And for the Panthers, these numbers are primarily versus teams much less talented than Drake. Besides Loyola Chicago, Saint Mary’s and Utah State, which were both losses, are the only comparable teams they’ve faced. The Missouri Valley is Drake, Loyola Chicago, and then everyone else. If the Bulldogs show up to play on Wednesday, a 80-65 win should be within reach.