When any team plays on their home court or field, they should have an advantage. The degree of that advantage will vary between each sport, each team and in each player.
The Missouri Valley Conference has traditionally been a highly competitive conference, and there are few consecutive regular season or conference tournament champions. It is especially difficult to win road games in the MVC because each venue is a difficult place to play. Nearly every team in the Valley has seen prominence recently and most teams are located in small towns that love basketball.
Ideally, a strong conference team is one who is successful on the road. In the MVC, the sign of a good team is one who protects its home court the best.
The Northern Iowa Panthers have lost just two home games all year. The two victories came at the hands of the top two teams in the conference, Indiana State and Wichita State — both by less than double-digits.
Although the Panthers haven’t fared well in road games and possess a difficult non-conference schedule (losses against Iowa State and Maryland), they have some impressive wins at home highlighted by a 12-point victory over Virginia Commonwealth.
Led by senior Seth Tuttle’s 15.2 points and eight rebounds per game, UNI has solid interior play to bolster the team’s true strength, their shooting. Deon Mitchell (12.4 PPG, 3.5 APG) brings savvy and swagger to the backcourt and is coach Ben Jacobson’s field general. Wes Washpun is one of UNI’s future talents and the Panthers are already utilizing his athletic ability as a wing defender.
Like most teams that rely heavily on shooting, UNI can’t win many games if it isn’t shooting well. However, they are shooting well. Right now, they are one of the hottest teams in the conference and are playing their best basketball of the season.