The University of Northern Iowa men's basketball team finished the regular season 28-4, winning both the Missouri Valley Conference regular season title and tournament title.
They were rewarded with a No. 9 seed in the Midwest Region of the 2010 NCAA Tournament, the highest seed ever for the Panthers. Northern Iowa will face the No. 8 seeded UNLV Rebels in Oklahoma City on Thursday.
This is the second consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament for the Panthers. Last year, they lost to the Purdue Boilermakers in the opening round.
With eight juniors and seniors, UNI is a very deep and experienced team that should do well. Team member Adam Koch won MVC Player of the Year and the 7-foot center Jordan Eglseder is a shot blocking machine.
"They'll win at least one, if not two games, in the NCAA tournament," said coach Gregg Marshall after Northern Iowa beat Wichita State, 67-52, in the conference championship.
ESPN's Pat Forde also predicts them to do well in the tournament, pointing out that UNI is "skilled in the art of strangulation defense."
One of the reasons Forde love the Panthers is head coach Ben Jacobson, who recently won the MVC Coach of the Year award.
The team will have their work cut out for them if they beat UNLV in the opening round. The Panthers were placed in the same region as Kansas and Ohio State, and would likely face the Jayhawks in the second round of the tournament.
Northern Iowa will be making their fifth tournament appearance in seven years, and will be riding a lot of momentum into this year's opening-round match-up.