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Spartan Hoopla: We Know Who Michigan State Is, but Who Is Northern Iowa?

Adam Biggers@@AdamBiggers81Senior Analyst IIMarch 24, 2010

SPOKANE - MARCH 19:  Head coach Tom Izzo of the Michigan State Spartans calls from the bench against the New Mexico State Aggies during the first round of the 2010 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Spokane Arena on March 19, 2010 in Spokane, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

With the Sweet 16 roster penned, America will enjoy quality competition from some of college basketball's usual suspects.

Mike Krzyzewski's Duke Blue Devils are in—no surprise there.

Jim Boeheim's Syracuse Orange will be in St. Louis, too—again, not a shock.

Bruce Pearl's Tennessee Volunteers, Matt Painter's Purdue Boilermakers, and Thad Matta's Ohio State Buckeyes also made the cut. Okay, so most are familiar with these teams.

One of the teams that will be cutting a rug in The Gateway to the West is Ben Jacobson's Missouri Valley Conference champion Northern Iowa Panthers.

Who?

That's not a typo; the Panthers, and not the Jayhawks, will be in the city known for its imposing arch, playing for a chance to advance to the Elite 8.

Northern Iowa is a school with an enrollment roughly one-third of Michigan State's (approx. 47,000). The small institution nestled in the Waterloo/Cedar Falls area boasts a student body of approximately 13,000 students—15 of those students can play some solid, team-oriented basketball.

Ask Bill Self.

Although there are a multitude of differences between the Spartans and Panthers, there are two similarities: Both are going to St. Louis, and both are intent on advancing.

The Spartans' mode of operation has been the same for years: Crash the boards, come down with rebounds, and work the paint.

At times, Tom Izzo's club can light it up from the outside, but it typically relies on the strength of guys like Draymond Green, Raymar Morgan, and Delvon Roe to create lanes to the basket for Kalin Lucas.

The same was true when Drew Neitzel was a Spartan, Marcus Taylor, Shannon Brown—and it will continue to work in the future. That is "Izzo Ball."

But Lucas is out for four to six months with a ruptured Achilles' tendon.

That is cause for a change of plans.

Sparty will now have to be reliant on Korie Lucious to feed the ball inside to guys like Morgan, Roe, and Green. Northern Iowa's big-man, Jordan Eglseder, will be waiting—all 7-feet of Bellevue's finest.

Northern Iowa is said to have a "perfect system" by some analysts.

Maybe "perfect" is a bit of a stretch, but the Panthers did win 30 games this year, cracked the top-25, and chopped the Jayhawks—their system is effective.

In order to keep the effective trend alive, Jacobson's guys will have to go at the throat of the Spartans. That means attack the post and take advantage of Eglseder's size advantage.

Ali Farokhmanesh has earned a reputation in March. His reputation is now that of a dagger-delivering sharpshooter (4-for-10 against Kansas, 16 points).

The 6-foot senior from Iowa City averaged just under 10 points a game in the regular season, but he has always been a three-point threat.

Farokhmanesh didn't play his freshman or sophomore sessions at UNI (Kirkwood and Indian Hills C.C.), but he has knocked down nearly 40 percent of his long-balls over his last two seasons as Panther.

Northern Iowa's 6'8" sophomore Adam Koch is another one of Jacobson's snipers. Koch is hovering just under 40 percent from beyond the arc, which is a facet of the game that Michigan State has had a year-long struggle with—defending it.

One aspect that Izzo has to his advantage is the speed of his team. There are not too many teams in the college ranks that can run with the Spartans. Mr. March (Izzo) said himself that Northern Iowa reminds him of the Wisconsin Badgers.

That's a good thing.

Michigan State is familiar with that style of play. Wisconsin isn't the type of team that can brag about its track-stars, but it can brag about its rough-game—just like the Panthers.

Mulling over stats and numbers can be a tedious process. Calculating figures to estimate the winner of this one could likely produce a headache. 

There are two main factors in the Northern Iowa-Michigan State matchup.

Speed: Michigan State has it, and scores 72 points per contest.

Physicality: Northern Iowa has a legitimate big man in Eglseder, but doesn't tout the explosiveness of Izzo's club. Jacobson's crew puts up about 62 a game, with most of those buckets coming in the paint.

Pick your poison.

Do you count on Michigan State's edge in the quicks department?

Or do you choose Northern Iowa's bulky center Eglseder and the laser-like delivery of Farokhmanesh?

As seen on Barking Carnival's "Sparty On" blog.

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