The UNI Panthers are returning to St. Louis for the postseason, but this time an NIT game brings them to the Gateway City.
The St. Louis Billikens host Northern Iowa in a first-round game at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Chaifetz Arena. That’s a different venue than the Enterprise Center, home of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.
The Panthers fell 66-43 to Loyola-Chicago in the MVC semifinals on March 5 and they didn’t have the resume for a March Madness bid.
As regular-season MVC champions, however, the Panthers knew for more than a week that they had at least an NIT spot locked in.
In fact, all four Division I programs in Iowa extended their seasons. The UNI at St. Louis NIT game kicks off things Wednesday night. The links below will take you to PlayIA‘s full coverage:
- (5) Iowa plays (12) Richmond at 2:10 p.m. Thursday in Buffalo (truTV)
- (11) Iowa State plays (6) LSU at 6:20 p.m. Friday in Milwaukee (TBS)
- Drake is the top seed in the CBI and faces Purdue Fort Wayne at 11 a.m. Saturday in Daytona Beach (streaming on Flo Sports)
How to watch the Northern Iowa NIT game
- What: NIT First Round — UNI (19-11) at St. Louis (23-11)
- When: 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 16
- Where: Chaifetz Arena in St. Louis
- Viewing Info: ESPN+ (Disney’s subscription streaming platform)
Once the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee set the March Madness field, the NIT wrapped up its process Sunday night. Teams were seeded 1-4 in each of four regions. The 16 seeded teams get to host first-round games if their arenas are available.
The winner of UNI-St. Louis faces the winner of Long Beach State at No. 2 seed BYU.
SMU is the top seed in Northern Iowa’s part of the NIT bracket. The Panthers play either Saturday or Sunday if they can get past the Billikens.
Some of the first NIT games tip off Tuesday night. The NIT returns to historic Madison Square Garden for its Final Four. Semifinals are March 29. The championship game is March 31.
About the Billikens
St. Louis is no stranger to the NIT. This will be the Billikens’ 20th trip to the tournament, including an appearance last year. They lost to Mississippi State in the first round a season ago.
The Atlantic-10 program finished fifth in the conference this season. Like Northern Iowa, they lost a semifinal in their conference tournament. Iowa’s NCAA opponent, Richmond, ultimately cashed in the A-10 automatic bid.
It will be a rest vs. rust matchup because MVC plays its conference tournament a full week before the A-10 crowns its champ. Gibson Jimerson leads St. Louis in scoring at 16.3 ppg.
“He’s got enough versatility and size that he’s going to be a challenge,” UNI coach Ben Jacobson told reporters.
Sophomore guard Yuri Collins averages 11.1 ppg and leads the nation in assists at 7.9 per game.
About the Panthers
UNI is making just its second appearance in the NIT. The Panthers went on the road for the first round in the 2012 NIT as well. They came away with a 67-65 win over St. Joseph’s a decade ago. Drexel clipped Northern Iowa in the second round, 65-63.
The Panthers wanted to follow up the MVC regular-season title with a conference tournament win. But, they ran into a buzzsaw in Loyola down at Arch Madness. Jacobson said the team needed a couple of days to work through the disappointment of missing the NCAA Tournament.
“Our guys worked through it. And now we understand that, hey, we’re still practicing right now. We’re still playing for something that’s important, you know, an opportunity to to go to New York City and play for an NIT championship. That’s a big deal. And our guys have been great the last four or five days.”
Jr. guard A.J. Green leads Northern Iowa in scoring at 18.8 ppg. Soph. forward Noah Carter adds a 14.6 ppg clip for the Panthers.