Northern Iowa will make the long trip to the Patriot Center in time for its second challenging road game of the season against George Mason on Saturday. The Panthers are 1-1 on the young season and Mason looks for its third win in what’s been a perfect season. George Mason opened as four-point favorites before being bet down to only spot 3.
Let’s talk about Northern Iowa, who is 5-7 on the road since last season. The Panthers didn’t even schedule a road game until their ninth game of the season last year as opposed to this year. Ben Jacobson threw his team into the fire right away this season. And, after losing at Ohio to open the season, UNI should come hungry to even the road mark. The Panthers defeated the Patriots in the Patriot Center last year in overtime for their first road win in 2012. Gone are James, Sonnen and Koch from a team that sat just below Creighton and Wichita State in the ranks of the Missouri Valley. Seth Tuttle is the only double-digit scorer from last year returning and he has struggled out of the gates averaging just five points a game. The good news is that other Northern Iowa upperclassmen are stepping up in his place. Chip Rank and Deon Mitchell have taken strides since last year and the duo has averaged 28 points per game at the start of the year.
George Mason counters with a roster that loses a good chuck of its offensive firepower from last year – a team that wasn’t quite good enough to come out of the Colonial Athletic. A proud, new member of the A-10 this season, George Mason finds itself in a revenge spot in its first real challenging game on the schedule. Actually, Mason made its opener against American a little closer than it may have liked – eking out a win against the Huskies. The key in this one should be who gets the better of play between both big men: Tuttle and Marko Gujanicic of the Patriots. Both are some physical size to match decent skill but struggle to find consistency whether it be getting the looks or just staying on the court and out of foul trouble. At the end of the day, I think this matchup is what Tuttle needs and what UNI wants. The Panthers scheduled this game because they expect to win, again. They get it done without the points but the three makes it a nicer option.
Free Pick: Northern Iowa +3