University of Northern Iowa Panthers

Sweet Sixteen Preview

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Ali Farokhmanesh #5 of the Northern Iowa Panthers (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The round of 32 is over and we have arrived in the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet Sixteen. The tournament so far has provided us with unexpected upsets, overtime games, and thrilling buzzer beaters. The darlings of this year’s tournament are the Panthers from the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) and the Ivy League’s Cornell Big Red.

The ninth seeded Panthers have defeated both UNLV and the tournament’s overall number one seed Kansas on their path to the sweet sixteen. UNI has been led by senior guard Ali Farokhmanesh who has carried his team with some clutch three points shots.

The 12th seeded Big Red have defeated Temple and Wisconsin, each by double-digit margins, to make it to the round of 16. Cornell has been led in scoring during the tournament  by senior guard Louis Dale and have had senior forward Ryan Wittman and senior center Jeff Foote patrolling the paint.

Both the Panthers and Big Red have monumental challenges ahead of them in the Sweet Sixteen

Cornell will be going up against the freshman phenom/highlight producing John Wall and the number one-seeded Kentucky Wildcats. Since the Jayhawks were eliminated, Kentucky has become the favorite to win this year’s national championship. Kentucky has faced very little opposition during the tournament. The Wildcats defeated East Tennessee State University and Wake Forest by an average of about 30 points. Cornell’s size inside will make Kentucky’s Patrick Patterson and DeMarcus Cousins work hard for every bucket. However, the talent and fire power that Kentucky possesses with Wall and Eric Bledsoe in the back court will propel them into the Elite Eight.

UNI will face off against Tom Izzo‘s Michigan State Spartans. Tom Izzo has been one of the most successful college coaches over the past 10 years. Izzo has led the Spartans to five Final Four appearances and a national championship in 2000. The Spartans have been impressive during the tournament and ended their second round game against the Maryland Terrapins with a game winning three pointer by sophomore guard Korie Lucious (who also had 13 points). Michigan State will be playing without their star junior guard Kalin Lucas, who tore his Achilles tendon against Maryland. Although junior guard Durrell Summers picked up some of the scoring slack by dropping 26 against the Terrapins, the Spartans will have to rely heavily on Luscious who is not as good offensively as Lucas. The absence of their floor general will be too much for the Spartans to overcome as Northern Iowa will advance to the Elite Eight.

John Wall and the Kentucky Wildcats (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

The other teams advancing to the Elite Eight will be Ohio State over Tennessee, St. Mary’s over Baylor, Duke over Purdue, Syracuse over Butler, West Virginia over Washington, and Kansas State over Xavier.