CEDAR FALLS – A NIT snub became a trip down memory lane. The CollegeInsider.com Tournament created a path of familiar faces for Northern Iowa.
In the first round UNI met North Dakota and its head coach, Panther alum, Brian Jones. In the second round, it hosts former Summit League rival Illinois-Chicago (18-15) at the McLeod Center on Saturday at 7 p.m. All CIT games can be viewed here.
No matter the foe, or the tournament, the Panthers (19-14) have one thing in mind.
“The thing that I’ve talked about the most is, let’s play as long as we can,” Northern Iowa head coach Ben Jacobson said. “That’s been the thing that I’ve said every day now since we finished at the conference tournament.”
The old rivals meet for the first time since the 2008-09 season when the Flames won 84-77. UIC holds an 11-10 advantage in the all-time series.
The two teams were founding members of the Association of Mid-Continent Universities (AMCU-8) in 1982. After the inaugural season the two met twice a year for the next eight years, until UNI joined the Missouri Valley in 1991. The Panthers held a 9-8 record against the Flames, and 8-1 at home, in the conference that is now called the Mid-Continent Conference.
Illinois-Chicago left the league shortly after UNI and joined the Horizon league in 1994.
The CIT announced Northern Iowa’s second round opponent late Wednesday night after its win against North Dakota.
“Late in the year like this, for the most part, we’re going to do what we’ve been doing for six weeks now,” Jacobson said. “There will be some things that the next opponent does, but you kind of narrow it down to two or three things at each end of the floor and work on those for a day or two.”
Sixteen teams remain in the CIT. UNI is one of five teams whose RPI ranks below 100. UIC’s RPI is 166, but has wins over tourney teams Iona and Colorado State.